After many years, our team returned to Bala to see how progress was being made with this plant. MKE was the Project Manager for the North Bala Small Hydro plant between 2007 and 2015 to help the developer through the preliminary engineering, environmental assessment and permitting phases of the project. This was a highly contested project by the local residents, causing the development time to increase significantly beyond the norm.
Bala has a long history of dams and waterpower production.
Burgess Generating Station on the Mill Stream: A dam was first constructed across the Mill Stream in 1870 to provide power for the old sawmill. The mill closed in 1910 but the facility was reused in 1917 by the Bala Light & Power Company to generate 245 kW of waterpower to the electrical grid. This plant was purchased by the former Ontario Hydro in 1929 and became known as Bala #1. It was closed in 1957 and transferred to the Town in 1962. The plant was redeveloped by a private company and put back into service in 1989, renaming it the Burgess Generating Station.
North Bala Channel: A second dam was constructed across the old Bala Falls in 1873 to regulate the water levels of Lake Muskoka that vary by up to 9′. The Bala Light and Power Company built its second station adjacent to the North Dam in 1924 – Bala #2. This plant was also purchased by the former Ontario Hydro in 1929 and closed in 1957. The structure was ultimately demolished in 1972 but the dam remains. A new 5 MW waterpower plant is currently under construction at the same site as the original Bala #2. It is scheduled to come on line in 2019. The current developer, Swift River Energy and its contractor CRT were kind enough to give our team a tour of the works.
South Bala Channel: The south channel was created when the rock was excavated from this channel and the third dam was constructed across the new channel in 1875 to further assist in the regulation of water levels.