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So, Misner Dam will NOT be repaired. Now what, remove it? No, decommission it. That means, remove the flood‐gate (a small, inexpensive portion of the dam) that controls how much water is retained by the structure.
Think of it this way. Imagine a stream of people walking along a sidewalk leading to a fence. They want to get past, but are stopped by a locked gate. The crowd swells at the fence. Some climb over. The fence strains against the flood of people. If the fence is not strong enough, it may collapse with a gush of bodies going forward. Just in time, the gate opens! People simply walk through. The crowd thins and soon, a safe and orderly flow results. Of course, the fence was only in danger of collapse while the crowd applied pressure.
Similarly, with a dam, there is danger of collapse when it retains a large reservoir. A reservoir can potentially break through and cause harm to life and property, downstream. Any child, who has blocked a small stream of water with handfuls of mud, understands the destructive potential of a dammed reservoir.
Misner Dam currently has its flood‐gate lowered such that Silver Lake is about one third, to one‐half full. This reduced reservoir presents some flood‐threat, certainly not as much as a full reservoir.
Less water behind a dam equals less danger.
A river running through a decommissioned dam equals the least amount of danger. If you were to visit the former Sutton’s Pond in Simcoe, Ontario you would see that the flood‐gate has been removed. The remaining dam structure has been repurposed as a pedestrian bridge.
After decommissioning Misner Dam, the Lynn River will flow freely. This will be positive for the environment, with improved water quality and biodiversity. However, some may be concerned about accumulated silt in the reservoir and the daily transport of silt by a freed river. Silt traps can effectively and inexpensively manage sediment flow in the river channel.
As the Lynn River re‐establishes a natural behaviour, it will cut a channel into the siltbed.
For a period of time, silt traps will be needed. When the river finally works its way down to a natural level (accumulated silt in the reservoir has artificially raised the elevation of the river bed) it will become stable and silt traps may no longer be necessary.
In the beginning, a clean‐up effort will be needed to dispense with accumulated sediments in the river channel. When the river becomes naturalized, it will have a capacity to manage the daily transport of sediments. This will require some initial engineering to set things on the right path.
The river banks will require stabilization. The remaining silt on the dewatered reservoir around the river will need to be stabilized through the establishment of plants, bushes, and trees (by natural and targeted efforts).
Silt management will have its costs, but far less so than the cost of repairing the dam. If silt management is a big concern, that it may harm the harbour, then there are more cost effective ways of managing silt than repairing the dam. A dam is the most expensive silt management option. The decommissioning of a dam is an inexpensive option compared to its complete removal or repair. There are MNR regulations and procedures that govern the process. This can be complicated, but so would it be for removal or repair.
The approximate dollar‐costs for the three options are: 1) several thousand to tens of thousands for decommissioning; 2) several hundred thousand for complete removal; and, 3) $10 million, or more for repair.
Decommissioning and removal have onetime costs, while repair has ongoing maintenance costs associated. The option to repair has been struck down by Norfolk County; the potential costs are outlandishly high for any taxpayer to accept.
Only two viable options remain: decommissioning or complete removal. One of these options must be exercised on Misner Dam. With either option, the Lynn River will run free as it did more than a century ago. This will be an opportunity to embrace, for there is no other choice. It is a chance for organizations & stakeholders and all levels of government to partner in an effort to create something wonderful to replace Misner Dam and Silver Lake. It is now a matter of imagination.
Can you imagine something wonderful? Don’t imagine something bad because it doesn’t have to be that way.
Silver Place is a concept developed by FREE THE LYNN. It can be modified in a variety of ways. Its focus is on nature with plenty of opportunities for people.
Who knows, maybe the best solution to the Silver Lake debate is yet to be discovered…. feel free to contact the Silo with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org CP