NB Power seeks input on technical study guidelines for Mactaquac future options
Fredericton, (N.B.) – NB Power has begun a technical review of the potential economic, social, and environmental impacts of each of the three options identified for future development of the Mactaquac Generating Station.
Mactaquac Generating Station is expected to reach the end of its service life by 2030 because of a problem with concrete expansion in some of the structures.
While NB Power continues to explore potential construction and engineering responses to the concrete expansion issue, the pending 2030 deadline has required the utility to begin work on end-of-life options for the station.
At this time, NB Power has identified three possible end-of-life options for the station, which include repowering the station with a new powerhouse and spillway, retaining the headpond by maintaining the earthen dam and spillway, or removing the station and restoring the headpond to a free-flowing river state.
The Comparative Environmental Review (CER) process will seek out and evaluate impacts of the three options in preparation for anticipated regulatory reviews at the federal and provincial levels.
The CER process is a technical review, modelled on the Government of New Brunswick's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which evaluates the potential impacts of large projects on behalf of the public. In most cases, the EIA process is the first and only opportunity to study the potential impacts of a large project.
Given the significant implications of each of the three options, NB Power is taking the exceptional step of voluntarily conducting an EIA-like exercise on each of the three options prior to any decision being made. This is to ensure both NB Power and its customers can be thoroughly informed of the potential impacts and to prepare for a potential EIA when the preferred option is selected.
The results of this technical review will support a broader public engagement process currently scheduled for the fall of 2015. This process will include opportunities for face-to-face and written feedback on the three options through facilitated workshops and online tools.
"The CER process will help NB Power answer key questions as we consider a preferred option for Mactaquac and prepare to satisfy the regulatory requirements of a project of this size," said Keith Cronkhite, vice president of generation and business development. "We'll be examining the impacts of each of the three options on, among other things, traffic patterns, property values and how people currently use the headpond and river. But we also want to hear from New Brunswickers about other areas that will be important for us to look at during this process."
Members of the public are invited to comment on the draft guidelines for the CER during a 45-day period ending January 8, 2015. This comment period is intended to ensure issues of concern to the general public will be considered during the review process.
More information on the CER process and how New Brunswickers can participate are available online. Final guidelines for the review will be made available to the public.
Guidelines for the CER will also receive input from First Nations and an advisory committee comprised of individuals with expertise in technical assessments.
Last fall, NB Power contributed $2.3 million in research funding to the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick to support a large, multidisciplinary study intended to answer key questions about the impact of the three options on fish passage, environmental flows and whole river ecosystem.
In addition, a comprehensive Aboriginal engagement process is underway to ensure the rights and interests of First Nations are considered.
Given the anticipated times required for approvals, design and site work, NB Power needs to choose a preferred option for the station with the approval of its owner, the Province of New Brunswick, by December 2016.
The Mactaquac Generating Station is a hydroelectric generating facility located west of Fredericton on the St. John River. The station began operating in 1968, and has the capacity to generate approximately 670 megawatts of energy using the flow of water through six turbines. The station supplies about 12 per cent of New Brunswick homes and businesses with clean, low-cost power.