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UARB rules more consultation by province with First Nations groups is needed on Tusket dam refurbishment project

The Tusket hydro dam owned by Nova Scotia Power. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
A view of two of the four gates of the Nova Scotia Power Tusket hydro dam in Yarmouth County. Nova Scotia Power is looking to conduct a $18.2-million refurbishment of the dam to meet new national standards. TINA COMEAU PHOTO - Tina Comeau

YARMOUTH COUNTY, N.S. – Work on a $18.2-million refurbishment of the Tusket dam in Yarmouth County by Nova Scotia Power remains at a standstill, following a UARB decision that the Crown – a.k.a. the province – hasn’t consulted enough with Indigenous communities.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) says the parties are requested to report back to the board within three months to advise of the status of the consultation.

“We’re eager for that process to move forward,” says David Rodenhiser, a communications spokesperson for Nova Scotia Power. “We're going to continue to work with all of the parties because getting the refurbishment of the Tusket dam approved and carried out will ensure it meets with Canadian national standards and refurbishment of the dam is in the best interest of our customers who want clean renewable energy.”

Nova Scotia Power has been awaiting a decision from the UARB on its application for a capital work order for the $18,157,608 project.

In an Aug. 7 decision, the UARB notes the Tusket hydro system is located in an area of known archaeological significance to the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. As well, there is an existing First Nations gaspereau fishery on the Tusket River.

The Tusket hyrdo dam is to be replaced, along with the bridge alongside it. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The Tusket hyrdo dam is to be replaced, along with the bridge alongside it. TINA COMEAU PHOTO


The UARB says Nova Scotia Power initiated a process to engage the Mi’Kmaq of Nova Scotia in 2015. A working group was established in February 2017 with representatives from the Acadia First Nation, KMKNO (Kwilmu’kw Maw-Klusuaqn Negotiation Office) and Nova Scotia Power.

The UARB says the ANSMC (Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’Kmaq Chiefs) and Acadia First Nation were complementary of Nova Scotia Power’s efforts to recognize and address Mi’Kmaq concerns and the board commended Nova Scotia Power for its engagement efforts.

But the UARB has ruled the Crown has not fulfilled its constitutional duty for consultation. In a 48-page decision the UARB says while all parties appeared to have had a genuine desire to undertake meaningful consultation, more consultation is needed for the Crown to meet its duty.

The UARB does not have the jurisdiction to void any permits that have already been issued by the province or DFO, but it will wait to rule on the capital work order application until the results of the consultation is known.

Nova Scotia Power says a new dam structure in Tusket is needed to meet Canadian guidelines that were updated in 2007. Since 2008, Nova Scotia Power has been addressing its 178 dam structures throughout the province to bring them in line with the guidelines.

At a Yarmouth County public consultation session in April 2017, Nova Scotia Power said a new dam structure would be built in front of the existing one, with the existing one later demolished. The gates of the existing dam are nearing the end of their expected lifespan and major concrete deterioration is occurring. There is also significant water leakage, causing ice build-up in the winter.

The existing dam has four gates that use pivot points to open and close. It was said the new dam will have eight lift gates that lower and rise. If all of the gates are open, the new dam will be able to pass 28,800 cubic feet of water per second through it, compared to 20,000 with the existing dam.

An existing fish ladder, it was stated at that session, will stay in place.

The refurbishment project also includes replacement of the Hurlburt Falls Bridge, which is the bridge located parallel to the dam.

The Tusket Hydro System has been in operation since 1929 and consists of one hydroelectric generating station with a capacity of 2.7 megawatts and four storage reservoirs at Lake Vaughan, Raynards Lake, Mink Lake and Great Barren Lake. The station generates about 12,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

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