Head, Clara and Maria Local History
Water Levels Raise Tempers at Meeting
North Renfrew Times, July 26 1995
Full Text
Water levels raise tempers at meeting

by Vance Gutzman

Some angry resort and cottage owners had a chance to vent some anger at Ontario Hydro officials Monday night over fluctuating water levels in the Ottawa River.

Water levels have not been con¬sistent in this region so far this year, with them being either too high or too low. That has people worried, particularly those in the tourism business whose livelihood depends on the river.

Doug Antler, owner of the Kingfisher Lodge resort in Deux Rivieres, was one of about 50 people who gathered in Stonecliffe to hear Ontario Hydro's rationale for the flux in water levels.

"In my case it affects my pocketbook, and I take it very seriously," Antler said of the situa¬tion so far this year.

Richard Penn, a senior engi¬neer with Ontario Hydro, laid the blame for the water woes directly at the feet of Mother Nature.

"1995 has not been a normal year," Penn said. Penn went on to say a lack of snow and rain at the end of winter and early spring contributed to very little runoff into the river.

"It was like a drought on the watershed," he stated. That ended in the middle of May, when it rained hard on the upper watershed, forcing the main dam at Lake Temiskaming, which is about four times the size of the dam at Des Joachims, to release water. In order to alleviate flooding problems that caused in Mattawa, according to Penn, this dam also had to be opened.

Such flows in the river have not been seen since 1983, according to Penn, who added that Hydro officials have been doing a "juggling act" trying balance out the water flows at the various dams along the Ottawa Valley River basin.

Penn's explanation, though, didn't soothe people like Antler and Richard Lafreniere of Mattawa. Lafreniere said there is a lack of communication at Ontario Hydro when it comes to people calling in to report concerns over water levels. He also called on Ontario Hydro to perform better monitoring of levels in order to predict when things such as this year's fluxes will happen again.

"Don't react to the problem when the problem's there," Lafreniere told Penn.

"Anticipate it. You're hurting business. We have a major problem here."

Renfrew North MPP Sean Conway was also at the meeting. While he agreed with Penn's suggestion of organizing a group of people, from different sections of the river, to monitor water levels, it is sometimes hard to fight Mother Nature.

"In a year like this, it's hard to get it right for all the people," Conway said.

"I'm left trying to explain [to constituents] something which is an irrational problem."

Resort owners also cried foul at the meeting over loss of fish habitats as low water levels effectively wiped out spawning beds. John Johnston, mountain river supervisor with the Ministry of Natural Resources, said people have raised the idea of bringing charges against Ontario Hydro for such wildlife losses, but he noted the charges would be difficult to prove.

"I don't think anybody at Ontario Hydro deliberately did this."

No solutions or compromises were reached by the time the meeting ended, although a list was made available for people to sign their names to if they were interested in participating in the river monitoring group.

"I'm still wondering what I'm going to do with the $20,000 I lost this year," Antler said towards the end of the discussions.

"If this is going to happen again and again, I'm going to have to close up and leave.

"My season consists of six months, and they [Hydro] took two months away from me."

Vance Gutzman, Author
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Item Type
Date of Original
July 26 1995
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Geographic Coverage
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Vance Gutzman
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North Renfrew Times
Mail: P.O. Box 310, Deep River, Ontario K0J 1P0, Phone: 613.584.4161, Fax: 613.584.1062 Email:NRT@magma.ca
Website: http://www.magma.ca/~drcanrt/
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Water Levels Raise Tempers at Meeting