Protecting the Namakan

Project Update
September 2015

The following statement was recently provided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry:

“The Applicant of Record (AoR) has been returned to [the Ministry of Natural Resources].  The proponent has stepped away.  Gemini is no longer pursuing the site(s), and we have accepted their return of the AoR.
There is no longer an AoR on any of the three sites.”

The three sites referred to are Myrtle Falls, High Falls, and Hay Rapids. The High Falls site was to be the first development.

We will provide more information here as it becomes available from the Ontario MNR&F and Lac La Croix First Nation regarding future land use and protection for the Namakan River.

Voyageurs National Park Association and partner organizations work to oppose the construction of a hydroelectric dam on Canada’s Namakan River in the heart of the Voyageurs, Quetico and Boundary Waters wilderness area. Hydroelectric development in this sensitive, pristine environment would have a significant impact on the ecosystem of the surrounding public lands and the wildlife therein, particularly on threatened species.

The Namakan River is a critical link between Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota and Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. The falls at risk are part of the largest remaining undammed river system in the region. The river accounts for 75% of water flow into Voyageurs’ Namakan Lake.

VNPA and a group of concerned Canadian and U.S. organizations formed an international effort in response to the hydro-development project, which was first proposed as three dam sites in 2009 and has since resurfaced.  The original proposal reached the draft Environmental Report stage in 2010. Canadian and US scientists and environmental organizations including VNPA reviewed the project and submitted comments criticizing the lack of planning and scientific rigor.

VNPA and other concerned organizations were informed that the project had been dropped in early 2013. We were surprised to learn recently that the project is continuing to be pushed forward. As a result, VNPA and Canadian and American environmentalists have become re-engaged. We are seeking clarification on the current status and details of the project and are asking the Ontario government to work with the community to seek economic development opportunities that do not threaten the ecological integrity of the area and its wilderness parks. We will keep you informed and let you know how you can help as new details emerge.

There has been an acceleration in dam removal in recent years in the United States for good reason.  Some 1,000 dams have been taken down over the last 50 years across the U.S. We cannot allow a new dam to be built that would threaten the Quetico-Superior ecosystem and the Rainy River watershed.

Please support our efforts to protect the Namakan and prevent hydroelectric development by contacting your elected officials.  A strong public outcry (from Canada and the U.S.) will help stop this project from proceeding.

Our partner organizations in the US include among others, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.


Hydro development proposal

A consortium that includes Gemini Power Corporation and the Lac La Croix First Nation is proposing to build a hydroelectric dam at High Falls on the Namakan River in Canada as a “green” energy project (under Ontario’s Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program) and economic development opportunity for the Lac La Croix First Nation.  A large community of Canadian and American citizens is opposing this project.  The dam’s placement would threaten the lands, waters, protected species and cultural integrity of two U.S. wilderness parks: Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Site of proposed hydroelectric dam: Namakan Fig 1Revised Dec 12 2012 Miles

Reasons for concern

  • The Namakan is one of the last undammed large rivers in central North America. A dam would damage the water quality and alter the flow of the Namakan, a river that runs for twenty miles over four waterfalls, a dozen set of rapids and rocky channels before draining into Namakan Lake.  The Namakan River also links directly to the Boundary Waters and Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and functions as a biodiversity and historical corridor (Voyageurs trade route) linking the three parks.
  • A dam would threaten the area’s biodiversity and ecological integrity.  Its construction would harm the resident Lake Sturgeon, a species considered by 19 states to be ‘endangered,’ ‘threatened,’ or ‘of special concern,’ and deemed ‘threatened’ by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.  Mitigation via fish ladders has shown to be ineffective and remote mitigation is expressively prohibited by a Treaty.  Others species would be disturbed including the Pygmy Snaketail Dragonfly, Common Nighthawk, Whip-poor-will, Snapping Turtle, Horned Grebe, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Bald Eagle, North American Beaver and Common Loons.
  • This dam is only the first of three that could be constructed.  The sponsors claimed that only one dam would be built on the Namakan, but the upfront investment in costly infrastructure opens the gate for multiple dams.   Two other sites on the Namakan River are licensed to the sponsors for additional hydro development projects.

 Donate now. Your financial support helps VNPA protect the Namakan.