High Falls and Manitou Falls Hydroelectric Project Description

Download Project Description [PDF: 21MB]


3. Project Site Information

3.1 Project Location
Figure 1.1 shows the project location. Table 3.1 below provides the geographic coordinates of the sites.

Table 3.1 Geographic Coordinates of Sites
Site NameMNR Site No. Geographic Coordinates Drainage Area (km2)
Latitude(d, m, s) Longitude (d, m, s)
Manitou Falls2BB0449-12-25 86-04-552356
High Falls2BB0249-20-30 86-02-201087

Both sites are located within Davies Township.

Figure 3.1 depicts the existing natural environmental features of the study area and Figure 3.2 depicts the existing socioeconomic features of the study area. These features are described in more detail in the following sections.

3.2 Natural Environmental Features
3.2.1 Physical Environment
3.2.1.1 Geology and Soils
The project study area is situated within the Precambrian Shield with granitic bedrock of the Superior Province, which is exposed at several points the area including Manitou Falls and High Falls. The overlying soils consist of extensive glaciolacustrine plains, comprised of varved clay, silt and fine sand into which the Pic River has cut its channel (Farrand 1960, Zoltai 1967, Milne 1968, Coates 1970; all cited in Chant 2007). Soils along the banks of the Pic River in the study area are predominantly clay (as noted in the MNR SDP) with sand and silt (DST Consulting Engineers Inc., 2007) and there are sand bar deposits downstream from High Falls and Manitou Falls. Riverbanks upstream from High Falls are comprised predominantly of sandy glaciofluvial outwash (DST Consulting Engineers Inc., 2007). The MNR SDP indicates that two large land slumps have occurred in the area in the past 15 years, serving as evidence of the unstable nature of the area’s riverbanks.
3.2.1.2 Surface Water Resources
The Pic River arises east of the Town of Longlac and runs for approximately 130 km (straight line distance) before discharging into Lake Superior, 15 km southeast of Marathon, Ontario. Manitou Falls is located approximately 70 km upstream from the mouth on Lake Superior. Middle Falls is located approximately 11 km upstream from Manitou Falls, and High Falls is located a further 4 km upstream. Major tributaries of the Pic River include the White Otter River (which discharges into the Pic River at Middle Falls), the Kagiano River (which discharges approximately 13 km downstream from Manitou Falls), and the Black River, which discharges approximately 2 km upstream from the Pic River mouth at Lake Superior.

The drainage areas at High Falls and Manitou Falls are 1087 m2 and 2356 m2 , respectively (Chant, 2007). At the High Falls location, the Pic River has an annual average flow of 13.11 m3/s, while at the Manitou Falls location, the average annual flow is 28.42 m3/s (Chant, 2007). Monthly average flows (from Chant, 2007) at each site are summarized below in Table 3.2. High- and low-flow return period flows from Chant (2007) are summarized below in Table 3.3.

Table 3.2 Average Monthly Flows
MonthAverage Monthly Flows (m3/s)
High FallsManitou Falls
January3.627.85
February2.535.48
March2.796.04
April23.2550.39
May42.1091.25
June19.1841.57
July12.1626.36
August8.2517.89
September8.4718.36
October14.9432.38
November12.8427.84
December7.0915.36
Table 3.3 High- and Low-Flow Return Period Flows
Return period (years)Flood Flows (m3/s)Drought Flows (m3/s)
 High FallsManitou FallsHigh FallsManitou Falls
1.25601222.24.6
2881791.83.7
51202431.42.9
101372781.2 2.62.9
201513071.12.3
501663381.02.1
1001763580.91.9

3.2.2 Biological Environment
3.2.2.1 Fish and Fish Habitat
The MNR SDP notes that fish species in the Pic River include lake sturgeon, rainbow trout, salmon, northern pike, walleye and brook trout, and that there are likely other species present that have not been documented. The salmonid species seasonally migrate into the Pic River from Lake Superior to spawn. Further, the SDP notes that lake sturgeon, walleye and rainbow trout spawning sites are present at Manitou Falls, although the exact location, extent and usage have not been identified. Rainbow trout spawning has also been noted at Middle Falls, which indicates that rainbow trout must be migrating upstream past Manitou Falls to spawn.

An interagency study was undertaken in 2002 to assess lake sturgeon and collect tissue samples for genetic analysis in tributaries of Lake Superior, including Pic River (Quinlan, 2002). Large mesh gill netting and set lining were used to sample lake sturgeon in the two main areas, including the reach 10 km upstream from Lake Superior (including the Black and Little Black Rivers, which drain into the Pic River) and the area at the Kagiano River mouth. A total of 16 different sturgeon were captured, with 14 being from the confluence of the Pic and Kagiano Rivers. Three of the fish captured were ripe males in spawning condition. Quinlan (2002) noted that suitable spawning habitat was present downstream from Lower Falls on the Kagiano River, downstream from Manitou Falls and downstream from the Wataway GS on the Black River, with the site on the Kagiano River appearing to have the most suitable spawning habitat in terms of area, substrate and flow. Quinlan (2002) also provided anecdotal reports that local anglers indicated more sturgeon are found in the Kagiano River than at Manitou Falls.

The Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre (AOFRC) initiated a lake sturgeon radio tracking assessment at the downstream end of the Pic River in 2008. DFO is conducting sturgeon assessments at the Kagiano River and Manitou Falls areas. These studies will provide additional data regarding sturgeon populations and movements in the Pic River.

3.2.2.2 Terrestrial Vegetation and Wildlife
The study area is located with the Central Plateau portion of the Boreal Forest Region of Ontario. Jack pine is prevalent throughout this area as a result of extensive sand and gravel deposits and low rocky outcrops. Black spruce forest communities are also well developed, and mixing of these coniferous species is common with white birch and trembling aspen. In mixedwood communities, there is a tendency for the development of a strong shrub understorey (Rowe, 1972). There are no vegetation species at risk identified on either the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), or the provincial Endangered Species Act, 2007, with ranges that overlap that of the study area.

No wildlife surveys are known to have been completed within the vicinity of the proposed development, however populations would be expected to be consistent with those found throughout the region.

The study area occurs within the range of several avian Species at Risk (such as Bald Eagles, Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher). Potential occurrences of these species will be determined through field studies to be conducted in the area.

The zone of discontinuous distribution for Woodland Caribou, a Threatened species both federally and provincially, in Ontario overlaps the study area (MNR, 2009). Any observations/evidence of caribou use of the study area will be noted during site investigations. No other mammalian Species at Risk are expected to occur.

No reptile or amphibian Species at Risk are expected to occur within the study area.

3.3 Socioeconomic Features
3.3.1 Current and Past Land Uses
The project is located in Davies Township within Thunder Bay District on provincial Crown land. The Pic River is known to be a traditional canoe route, utilized during the fur trade and later during the log drive. Currently, resource extraction continues. The High and Manitou Falls areas, as well as the Pic River itself are valued based on their provision of recreational and tourism opportunities.

The project is located within General Use Area “G2688: The Interior” as per the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas. According to the Policy Report the primary intent of this area is to provide for resource extraction activities including commercial power generation development (MNR, 2006).

3.3.1.1 Traditional Canoe and Fur Trade Route
According to MNR’s SDP, High Falls is considered to be of cultural and historical significance as a traditional canoe and fur trade route. A Stage I Archaeological Assessment will be undertaken to confirm/establish any archaeological resources. If required, a Cultural Heritage Assessment will also be completed to determine any cultural heritage resources potentially affected by the project.
3.3.1.2 Forestry
The Pic River is known to have been an important waterway during the log drive. In particular the High Falls area, according to the MNR’s SDP, contains remnants of a former logging camp. Associated resources are also described within Canoe Manitouwadge to include a watchman’s shack and ladders, used by employees of the local lumber company to observe and correct log jams. (MPCC, undated).

At present, Marathon Pulp Inc. is the Sustainable Forest License (SFL) holder for the Big Pic Forest, covering 1.4 million acres within which the project sites are located.

According to the SDP, a Permanent Sample Plot for forest research is located in the vicinity of the Manitou Falls site (on Manitou Falls Road).

3.3.1.3 Hunting/Harvesting
The Pic River represents the border between Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 21A (to the west) and WMU 21B (to the east). Popular game species in the area include moose, black bear, sharptail, ruffed and spruce grouse, ptarmigan, rabbit and hare. The project area is located in the vicinity of three licensed Bear Management Areas (BMAs).

The High Falls and Manitou Falls sites are located within registered trapping area(s). Harvested furbearing species include beaver, mink, marten, otter, fisher, lynx, muskrat, fox and timber wolf.

According to MNR’s SDP, the High Falls site is located within Baitfish Harvest Area (BHA) WA-0313. The Manitou Falls site is located within BHA WA-0322.

3.3.1.4 Mineral Resources
The SDP provided by MNR describes the withdrawal of surface rights in the vicinity of the project by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM). This includes an area of 94 ha at High Falls and downstream (approved application). An application has been submitted to MNDM for a further withdrawal of 1052 ha extending from the High Falls withdrawal to just below Manitou Falls.
3.3.1.5 Recreation/Tourism
High Falls and Manitou Falls are featured within the Manitouwadge Tourism Initiative – Spirit of the Falls, within which these attractions are detailed in an effort to advertise their recreational appeal. Neither site is accessible by vehicle, and requires additional travel by ATV, walking, mountain bike, etc, from the main road.

The Pic River is also considered to be an important recreational resource/tourism area by the Town of Manitouwadge. Within the publication Canoe Manitouwadge (an effort put forth by the Manitouwadge Public Consultation Committee (MPCC)) the canoe route - #2 McKay Lake Rd to Pic River or Highway 17 or Lake Superior, is described, with documentation of the resources along Pic River, including campsites, portages, and other areas of interest. Campsites in the vicinity of the project are located at the portages around Manitou and High Falls. There are various other campsites along the Pic River (MPCC, undated).

According to the MNR’s SPD Manitouwadge continues to focus on economic growth within the tourism sector, specifically attempting to attract recreational users including snowmobilers, ATV users, mountain bikers, canoe/kayakers, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, winter campers, hikers, and other naturalists.

3.3.2 Potential Contamination of the Site from Past Uses
No contamination of the proposed sites from previous land use is known or anticipated given the remote location and greenfield nature of the project.
3.3.3 Proximity to Aboriginal Reserves and Traditional Territory
Potentially affected local Aboriginal communities identified by the MNR include the Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation, located approximately 70 km south-southwest of the project sites, on the shores of the Pic River; and Ginoogaming First Nation, located approximately 80 km northwest of the project sites. In addition, Long Lake No. 58 First Nation, located approximately 85 km northwest of the project sites; and Pic Mobert First Nation; located approximately 70 km southeast of the project sites have been identified as potentially affected First Nations.

The project sites have been identified to fall within the traditional use area of these four Aboriginal communities, and within the Treaty Boundaries of the Robinson Superior Treaty Area. The Pic River is also defined as a traditional canoe route, the mouth of which, at Lake Superior, is an area where several historical and archaeological finds have been documented. The site is a ceremonial meeting place for the Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation.

3.3.4 Proximity to Important or Designated Environmental or Cultural Sites
A Stage 1 Archaeological Assessment is scheduled to be undertaken by a licensed archaeologist to determine whether there is potential for archaeological resources to exist within the project area.
3.3.5 Proximity to Residential and Other Urban Areas
The sites are located approximately 20 km northwest of the Town of Manitouwadge. There are no residential or other urban areas in closer proximity to the sites.


High Falls and Manitou Falls Project
Copyright © 2010 Pic River Hydro • www.PicRiverHydro.com