Minister Catherine McKenna asked to stop Enerdu hydro dam expansion in Almonte

The mayor and some residents in Mississippi Mills, Ont., which includes the community of Almonte, are calling on the federal environment minister to stop construction on the Enerdu hydroelectric dam to protect an endangered dragonfly.

Construction could destroy endangered dragonfly habitat, opponents of dam say

Protesters hold signs that say "save our river" as they denounce the expansion of the Enerdu hydroelectric dam in Almonte on Monday. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Dozens of protesters waded into the Mississippi River near Almonte's old town hall to try to stop the expansion of a hydroelectric dam they say could bring an endangered type of dragonfly closer to the brink of extinction.

They're calling on Catherine McKenna, minister of the environment and climate change, to issue an emergency order to stop the project. 

Linda Manzer organized the Monday afternoon protest because Enerdu Power Systems has all the paperwork it needs to start construction. She said Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry should not have approved the project. 

"We have a documented endangered dragonfly right here, we know it. I was standing beside somebody who was photographing it last week. I'm not sure what else we need, because apparently by law you're not allowed to do this," Manzer said.

Opponents of the dam say the rapids clubtail dragonfly, which is listed as endangered in Ontario, has been spotted in the Mississippi River near the site of the dam expansion. They want the area to be studied to see if the flies breed in the area.

'You stop things'

Mississippi Mills, Ont., mayor Shaun McLaughlin said he wants the federal government to put the brakes on the Enerdu dam project.

He's calling on McKenna to step in with an emergency order, like she did last month to protect a rare frog in Quebec.

"That same minister ... shut down part of a subdivision in Montreal because it endangered the western chorus frog. There are hundreds of thousands of chorus frogs, there's 300 of these dragonflies left in Canada, maybe just 20 of them here," McLaughlin said. 

"It's the same thing: if you care about endangered species — if you really care about them — you stop things."

'We're grasping at straws now'

Ron Campbell, project lead for the Enerdu redevelopment, said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided final approval to the project in mid June.

"The impact to the river has been studied in extreme detail and it is the conclusion that the introduction of the new powerhouse and its additional weirs and some excavation will have limited or no impact on the quality of the Mississippi River through Almonte," Campbell said.

Some residents have opposed expanding the dam since 2012, when it was first proposed. Campbell said Enerdu has addressed concerns about how the redevelopment will blend in with heritage buildings. He said both the company and the government of Ontario considered the rapids clubtail dragonfly in their environmental assessments.

"We're grasping at straws now," he said. 

The redevelopment would increase the amount of power generated in downtown Almonte from 350 kilowatts at the current site to 995 kilowatts. There would be a new powerhouse containing two turbines and a type of dam that allows water to pass overtop.

Campbell said construction is scheduled to begin as early as next week.