Input on river uses could set dam fate

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Springbank Dam is creating a gulf between residents as the early stages of an environmental assessment reignite the fiery debate.

London’s One River initiative — master planning for a portion of the Thames River from the Boler Road bridge to Harris Park — can’t proceed without addressing the dam. It’s key to the rest of the vision.

There are three main options for the dam, out of commission since bolts on one gate snapped during a test in 2008: Fix it, axe it or do nothing.

Londoners are facing off.

“So far, it’s been pretty split down the middle,” said Ashley Rammeloo, the city’s acting storm water and engineering division manager.

About half of Londoners support the dam because it makes activities — like boating on the Thames — possible. The other half are concerned about the ecological health of the river and preserving its natural state, she said.

Mayor Matt Brown is urging residents to follow his lead and “move to the centre.”

Brown, whose 2014 mayoral campaign included a pledge to fix the dam, backed off after hearing opposition from politicians and residents at council last year.

He wants decisions to be based on evidence, even though he has emotional attachment to the dam.

“I have very fond memories of canoeing on that small stretch of the river, of walking with my grandfather along the river’s edge,” Brown said. “However, I’m also aware of many species at risk that I’m told are thriving in that area (with the river flowing freely).”

Brown wants to see the science on both sides before deciding.

“Out of respect for the vast number of differing opinions in our community, I think it’s really important that we all take the time to analyze the issue very carefully,” he said.

A recommendation won’t go to council until October, but the city is asking for public feedback.

“What we really want people to focus on is not just a sense of whether the dam should be in place, but what they actually want to do with the river, because maybe we can make those things happen regardless of if the dam is in place or not,” Rammeloo said, pointing to alternatives for activities like canoeing or rowing.

Residents are invited to share their thoughts and complete a survey at 

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