The editorial position of the Hamilton Spectator is in support of the restoration project at Crooks Holllow Dam. Read it below:
Dam decision tough, correct
Striking a balance between being environmentally and socially responsible is never easy. The Hamilton Conservation Authority’s decision to go ahead with a $1-million project to demolish the aging Crooks Hollow Dam in Greensville is a good example.
In case you missed this story, it centres around the decision to go ahead with the plan to remove the dam and rehabilitate the river system in the area to return it to a pre-dam state. Local residents, hundreds of whom signed petitions and protested the plan, are predictably unhappy. And if you’ve visited the area to enjoy the scenic and sensory pleasures offered by Crooks Hollow, you might understand why they disagree with the decision, which will undoubtedly alter the bucolic landscape they are accustomed to, and in fact might have moved to the area to enjoy.
But the dam, which was built in the early 1900s to serve as a water supply for Dundas, is badly in need of repair and reconstruction. The estimated cost of that work is $1.2 to 1.4 million, which makes it considerably more expensive than the cost of removing all or most of the structure and letting Spencer Creek rush through as it did before dam was built. There are factors other than cost to consider. The dam does not serve any flood-control purpose. In fact, now that Dundas’s water supply is Lake Ontario, the only real reason for the dam is aesthetic — the structure and the adjacent 600-metre-long reservoir offer a peaceful and beautiful respite from urban life, as well as a home for flora and fauna.
What should the conservation authority have done? Pay a higher price to rebuild the dam, or remove it and restore the area creek and river to its original form, before it was altered by the dam and by location of numerous mills and other manifestations of human settlement?
The answer, with greatest respect to area residents and others who have fought to keep the dam, is the latter. In this era of fiscal restraint, any taxpayer-funded organization that chooses a more expensive decision over a cheaper one needs to have a very good reason. And that reason does not exist in this case. Just imagine the furor directed at the HCA had it chosen the higher-cost option with the only rationale being to respect the sensitivities of people who live in the area? And it’s not as if the HCA is removing the dam in favour of less-rustic development. In fact, Spencer Creek and area will end up being closer to its original state than before, and that is bound to have positive impact on the local environment overall.
This had to have been a tough call for HCA board members. But their obligation in the end is to the larger group of stakeholders who have an interest in conservation holdings, and expect decisions to be made with the big picture, not local parochial interests, front and centre. In that context, this is the right thing to do.