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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Choices and Environmental Manipulation in Northwestern Ontario: Kakabeka Falls

Kakabeka Falls, Ontario
The amazing photographs  of the dry river bed of the mighty Kaministiquia River were taken  just below  Kakabeka Falls near Thunder Bay, Ontario during the summer of 2010.   The river,  normally showing a fabulous cascade of water over the falls  and rapidly-moving water all the way from one tree line to the other in the riverbed further downstream,   is dried up.
There was virtually no water flowing over the popular and beautiful falls.  

Kakabeka Falls Dry   2010
Perhaps the electric turbines, water conduit system and power dams further upstream were closed to build up the water level as a temporary measure,  for an inspection,  or a  repair of some type.   No matter.  
For all intents and purposes, there was virtually no flow in the waterway;  the riverbed was dry.   If a  conduit and turbine  inspection was taking place, was it  necessary to shut off all water flow to the natural riverbed at the dam spillway above the falls?  No.

 What are the tangible consequences of drying out a  riverbed in the heat of summer?  What happens to  molluscs, river clams,  water bugs, crayfish, minnows, perch,  trout, bass,  sturgeon, suckers, walleye, pike and other  fish trapped in small pools that quickly evaporate and  dry up in the heat of the summer?    The answer is not a happy one.   Drying out in the heat of summer is catastrophic to all  life forms in the river.  They die.  What happens to water plants and microscopic  flora and fauna that grow on the rock  in the river bed?    The answer is the same.  If maintained in a dry state too long, all  life dries out and dies.  

Kaministiquia River bed- Dry 2010
The pointed question must be asked:  Why is this deadly manipulation of the river bed allowed?  How is it acceptable to manipulate the environment so blatantly when the effect is so obvious?      
The Kaministiquia  river is also considered to be a navigable waterway used by explorers, trappers and voyageurs  since Canada was first explored, -- and by native populations for many millenia before that.  The river is  clearly not navigable without water. Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park is also far less attractive as a camping or tourist destination with little or no water plunging over the falls.  
The stock answer may be “power is needed”.    Perhaps it is a good idea to sort fact from fiction.  Power generated  at Kakabeka Falls, Ontario is not only used in Northwestern Ontario.  The electricity grid in Northwestern Ontario is arbitrarily  interconnected to both the  Manitoba power grid and the Southern Ontario grid.   The Ontario grid  is additionally  connected to the insatiable  American electrical grid south of the border.   
Why is it necessary to allow the Kaministiquia River to dry out while there is such a huge, interconnected power  grid to draw upon?  

Does the requirement for electrical  power ever justify absolute destruction of an  environment simply because it is in “the remote northwest” , a corner of the province, where bureaucrats and executives of Ontario Power Generation  think  “nobody will notice?”  
I think not. 
Allowing this river bed  to dry out is an unacceptable choice and must not be allowed to continue.   I encourage the reader to ask their  elected members of parliament  to explain why  this travesty is somehow deemed “acceptable" and ask them to ensure such occurrences  are prevented in the future.    


  1. whether we live in a remote place or not, the ever pervading sense of respect for all elements and creatures should be considered essential--anywhere.
    is nature a destination to distract us from the stressful life we have allowed to take its place? let's go to see the falls--but there's only rocks now, we've used up the energy already...the scenario is getting ugly.
    wait till people can't flush it down and things will start stinking in town.

  2. It seems we seldom appreciate what we have until it is gone, because of our use or abuse....

  3. i went online to research the area, and found what my heaven would be...splendid indeed.


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