Anglers have a vested Lake Huron interest for future generations

 By Sandy Lindsay

September 15, 2014


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If any group has a vested interest in the health and well-being of Lake Huron, it is the Lake Huron Fishing Club (LHFC), now in its 31st year of operation.

The Club's Vice-President, Michael Hann, expressed the views of the organization at the Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearings, now in progress in Kincardine, regarding the proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) at the Bruce Nuclear site.

Most of the Club's members come from the Lake Huron coastline while others are from throughout southwestern Ontario.

The Club's mandate is to "guarantee angling opportunities for current and future generations".  With only volunteers, the Club rears rainbow trout and Chinook salmon at two hatcheries located in Kincardine and Port Elgin.

In the Port Elgin facility, the Club annually raises 120,000 Chinook salmon and 60,000 brown trout and another 120,000 rainbow trout are raised in the Kincardine facility.

Both facilities were entirely constructed and are cared for by volunteers.  The Club undertakes several conservation efforts including fish restoration, tree planting, stream enhancement, livestock fencing and other conservation projects.  They have also constructed two fish-cleaning stations, one in Port Elgin and the other in Kincardine and both stations, upon completion, were donated back to their municipalities.

Each summer, the Club holds the largest fishing derby on Lake Huron, the Chinook Classic.  In addition, the Club holds educational school tours of its hatcheries and operates a classroom hatchery program in 17 area schools with the hope of expanding to 100 schools within five or six years.

The LHFC is deeply rooted in the community and all activities are carried out by unpaid volunteers with the support of many businesses and corporate sponsors, including Bruce Power, the Power Workers Union and OPG.  The LHFC has also partnered with Bruce Power on several Lake Huron conservation initiatives.

"Most members are local and whatever happens at the Bruce site impacts them personally and directly.  Many, in fact, work at the Bruce or are retired from there," said Hann.  "Therefore, they  have worked with, or are familiar, with the proposed DGR and the materials under discussion before the JRP.  Those of us who don't work at the plant are just as conscious of the risks due to the proximity."

Hann said that the presence of radioactive materials is of concern in the area but, perhaps, less so than other communities  because the community is informed and knowledgeable about the hazards and know they are of constant consideration. 

"I this case," says Hann, "familiarity breeds respect and, whatever one's thoughts or position on the DGR, the waste is a problem that won't go away and must be dealt with."

Like other involved groups, the LHFC is very concerned with the risks of contamination of the waters and all the consequences.  "It should be obvious that our group is passionate about the health of Lake Huron," added Hann.

Hann also pointed out that, as most of the Club members are local residents, they would be the first to suffer and would suffer the most in the event of any incident.

Hann, who has a cottage located near the outflow from Bruce A, is also personally concerned. 

The first two options would leave the low and intermediate waste (L&ILW) above ground in storage buildings or enhanced storage a few metres above the lake level. 

"It is obvious to the Club," says Hann, "that surface storage is a far greater risk than storage at more that 650 metres below ground surface and more than 450 metres below the lake's deepest point which would give 1480 feet of separation to the water."

Hann said that, "To this year (2014), all levels of government and the experience at the site have given us 46 years of incident free storage through intelligence, diligence and expense." 

He also pointed out however that the amount of waste will continue to increase and that the typical half-life for some of these intermediate level materials is around 100,000 years.

Hann then posed several questions.  "So, what will our situation be a thousand years from now or 2,000 years or beyond.  So much will happen in the coming millennia.  Will the materials still be sitting on the surface? Will it have slid into the lake and contaminated it? Will the site be barren and deserted? What will our society look like?  Will it be capable either politically or economically of managing this waste or any other hazardous material?" 

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"This is not fantasy," he said. "In less than 50 years, we have seen a major U.S. city slip back to nature.  We have seen the emergence of third world countries and the impoverishment of industrialized nations."

Hann stressed that the LHFC accepts and shares the hesitation of downstream localities but asks them to reconsider. 

"It is our read that the first two options pose more risk than underground storage," he said.  "Containment inside a few metres of concrete on or near the surface that are roughly the same distance from shore as the DGR makes no sense to the Club."

Greater dangers are immediately posed by nature and politics through the accessibility of the on-ground or above-ground storage.

The notion by some opposing the DGR is that society wait until some method is developed to resolve this issue completely. "It has taken us nearly 50 years to get to this point," pointed out Hann, "and the hazard is still on the ground and there is nothing on the horizon to indicate there is some scientific answer that will make this go away.

If a better solution should arise, it is important to remember that, if we are able to put the waste some 600 plus metres below the ground, we can certainly bring it back to the surface."

There are another two options ... the proposed DGR at the Bruce site or another DGR in the north on the Canadian Shield.

"From a risk point of view, we would accept that deep geologic disposal in rock formations with the same attributes as at the Bruce site would be acceptable," said Hann.  "However, to get to this point has taken 12 years." 

"Our Club supports a resolution for the public good as quickly as possible.  Restarting the process and stepping back 12 years is not the way to proceed here.  This possible delay has therefore directed our decision to the third option that the DGR be placed at the Bruce Nuclear site." 

Hann also pointed out that it makes sense to manage the waste at the Bruce site where most of the waste is already located along with an experienced and well-trained workforce. 

"We believe the proposed DGR at the Bruce site is consistent with the Lake Huron Fishing Club's mandate which is to guarantee angling opportunities for current and future generations.

As the Club's Vice President, I am anxious to see this resolved in my lifetime."

Dr. Jamie Archibald, JRP member, asked what Hann considered as political dangers when it came to the storage of waste above ground.

"The political dangers are the ideological forces against western society, or in other words terrorism, and political bipartisanship that thinks this temporary storage is good enough ... when it is not."

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