Mactaquac, New Brunswick, is the site of the Canadian Maritime provinces’ largest hydroelectric dam, producing 668 MW of renewable energy (12% of its needs). The dam was built in the mid-1960s at great economic, environmental and social cost. The cement used to build the dam, however, contained a faulty aggregate which is compromising the stability of the structure. The dam will be either rebuilt, removed, or left in place without producing power. This decision has to be made by 2016, and the utility has initiated a process to decide how to proceed.

Our team has been engaged in research and outreach around this issue since 2013. We started with an analysis of the New Brunswick energy system.

In August 2013, we ran focus groups with locals, while on a houseboat tour of the headpond from the Dam to Kings Landing Historical Settlement. Watch the documentary, or read the poster.

The following year, we returned to carry out interviews in local people’s homes, adding more young people and elders, to understand the relationships people had with the headpond, and what future option they preferred.

Of the three options, NB Power has provided the least information around the option of removing the dam. Misinformation is rife, and the lack of public understanding about this option and its implications is creating a polarized debate. Specifically, there is a lack of awareness of what typically results from dam removal processes and what kind of landscape might result in Mactaquac. We completed a review of dam removal processes and outcomes, including One of the biggest local concerns is around.

Finally, it is important to think of the Mactaquac Dam as only part of the energy system. New Brunswick has a range of energy controversies, including shale gas extraction, wind turbines, nuclear plant recommissioning, thermal plant fuel conversion, and consumption measures such as SmartGrids. Each of these is often debated in isolation, like the dam decision, but our project is planning a citizen jury for fall 2015 which will encourage local citizens to debate the ideal energy mix for New Brunswick, and discuss how to get there.