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Friends of the Tay Watershed Volume 1, Issue 2
September 2002

Friends of the Tay Watershed is a non-profit charitable association of residents, associations, and
other organizations interested in the welfare of the Tay River watershed, located at the top of the
Rideau Valley watershed in eastern Ontario, Canada.

We welcome your comments or questions.  To contact us:
e-mail:  [email protected]
Internet address: www.tayriver.org
Telephone: (613) 264-0094
Fax: (613) 264-9066
Newsletter Editor: Cathy Hamlen (613) 264-2051, [email protected]

News Flash

The Township of Bathurst, Burgess and Sherbrooke (BBS) has been given a new name, the Tay Valley Township.

Index of Articles

Studies in the Watershed Programs in the Watershed
Groundwater and Aquifer Characterization Study

   This study, which began in the fall of 2001, will develop information on the groundwater resources available in the watersheds of the Rideau Valley and the Mississippi Valley, as well as the rest of Renfrew County.  It will also document the contamination challenges facing these groundwater resources and will recommend steps to ensure their protection.
   The study is a cooperative initiative of the 2 Conservation Authorities with responsibilities in this region - the Rideau Valley and the Mississippi Valley - and is being funded through the Ministry of the Environment Groundwater Studies Initiative 2001/2002 and the participating municipalities.
   It will be completed during 2002 in 4 stages:
       (1)  Groundwater Resource Assessment, which will identify aquifers, flow directions, water quality and quantity, and vulnerable areas.
       (2)  Groundwater Contamination Assessment, which will inventory past and existing contamination sources and evaluate the risk of further contamination.
       (3)  Inventory of Existing Groundwater Use, including an assessment of sustainability and implications for land use designation and current conservation protection.
       (4)  Set of planning recommendations, for the purpose of Groundwater Management and Protection - covering nutrient management plans, land use restrictions on new development in sensitive areas, baseline water testing, eductional programs, and a data management system for continual updating of groundwater information.
   Public input is invited.  Please contact the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority at Box 599, Manotick, ON, K4M 1A5, (613) 692-3571, 1-800-267-3504, or from their website, www.rideauvalley.on.ca.

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Fish Habitat of the Tay River Watershed

   An ambitious fish habitat survey, covering 14 sub-watersheds in the Rideau Valley, is being carried out jointly by Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources, the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.  The study was initiated in 2001 and the final report for this area, "Fish Habitat of the Tay River Watershed, Existing Conditions and Opportunities for Enhancement" will be released shortly.  At this time, public comment will be sought.  The study addresses a number of issues raised in the Tay River Watershed Management Plan.
   As a continuation of the Tay River Watershed Management Plan, 4 objectives were set:
       (1)  Identify and map areas of critical and sensitive fish habitat
       (2)  Document degraded habitat and issues that contribute to habitat destruction
       (3)  Develop and prioritize recommendations to protect and/or enhance habitat
       (4)  Promote education and resource stewardship.
   This project identified 23 shoreline rehabilitation and livestock access sites, 12 walleye spawning rehabilitation projects, 6 lake trout spawning shoal enhancements, 2 major wetland habitat improvements, and several clean-up initiatives.  Each sub-watershed was evaluated, using a scoring system for fish habitat status and capability, sensitivity of the resource, current land use stress, and number and scale of enhancement opportunities.  Sensitive lake trout habitat (Bobs and Crow Lakes) and critical walleye spawning beds for the Tay River and Christie Lake were placed under a high priority.  Prioritization was further broken down by 5 keystone issues and applied to top priority sub-watersheds.  New tools for fisheries evaluation (Near Shore Community Index Netting; Early summer Trap Netting), which can be applied provincially for comparisons, were employed in this study.
   Members of the Christie Lake Association received an update on its applicable contents and actions at their AGM on July 17th.

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Perth River Edge Project

   The RVCA, in cooperation with FoTW, is guiding efforts to naturalize a grassy shoreline in Perth.  Perth resident, Marilyn Devolin noticed excessive weed and algae growth in the water near her home and contacted FoTW and RVCA for information.  RVCA staff inspected the site and decided that excess nutrients were washing into the Tay River from the grassy shoreline.  RVCA staff and Perth officials drafted a planting plan for the site and PDCI Science and Society students planted 30 trees and bushes at the site this spring.

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Watershed Watch Takes off in Rideau Valley - Monitoring Lake Health

by Lynn Preston, RVCA

   In this program, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) is undertaking lake health monitoring.  On a 5 year cycle, the RVCA will sample all Rideau Lakes.  In the Tay Watershed, in the 2nd year of its program, the following lakes are/will be sampled:  Farren, Crosby, Little Crosby, Little Silver, Davern, Pike, Otty, O'Brien, Rainbow and Eagle Lakes.  Other lakes outside the Tay Watershed will be Burridge, Westport Sand, Black and Long Lakes.  Each participating lake association receive reports for their lake (complete with a lake grade) and for other participating lakes.
   The program looks at water chemistry (i.e. phosphorus), bacteria counts, and oxygen levels.  It also focuses on biological indicators of lake health, including macro-invertebrates (bugs), frogs, and aquatic vegetation growth rates.
   Participating lake associationsprovide volunteers to assist in accessing the sampling sites and taking samples.  The use of volunteers reduces program costs, but, equally important, it ensures a base of expertise is available in the lake community.
   The RVCA is committing to learn more about the Rideau Valley Watershed through monitoring using volunteers.  Other monitoring aspects which will be explored in the future include water levels, flora and fauna, groundwater and climate monitoring.  There's more to do and more that you, our much needed volunteers, can get involved in.

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Sub Watershed Management Plans

by Cam MacLeod

   "Undertaking Lake Management Plans" is one of the Priority Actions in the 3 Year Work Plan set out in the May 2002 Tay River Watershed Management Plan.
   In the Muskoka-Haliburton area, the Peninsula Lake Association has prepared an excellent plan, which was released in July 2001.  In Leeds and 1000 Islands Townships, the Charleston Lake Association received a Trillium Grant of $138,000 and hired consultants to prepare their own Lake Watershed Plan.  Both areas have been subject to major lake-shore developments.
   In the Tay Valley Township (formerly BBS), where lake and river developments have also increased with "lake suburbanization", the establishment of lake carrying capacities and zoning by-laws is critical to the preservation of our water bodies and communities.
   At the June 30 meeting of the Long Lake Property Owners Association, chaired by President Phil Conquer, a "Lake Management Plan Team" was formed.  The team will consult with other lake associations, FoTW and RVCA with the objective of developing a common sub watershed plan framework.  Many of the issues facing our lake and river communities are common to all our sub watersheds:  weeds, algae, water quality, septic inspections, mining claims, drainage of wetland reservoirs, climate change, forest fire hazard, boat traffic, noise, shoreline damage, invasive species, E. coli, beavers and destruction of fish habitat.  Other issues are unique to individual lake or river communities and the "framework" would provide for these to be addressed by each association.

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Other Programs

Green Garden/Shoreline Visit Program:  This program by LL Green and BRLA will encourage people to naturalize their properties and shorelines.

Rural Water Stewardship Program:  Through workshops, literature, and rural stewardship visits, this LLGreen program will adress well maintenance, pollution prevention, and related questions facing rural well owners.

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Recent Activities of the FoTW

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Other Activities

Other News

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Articles by FoTW Members

FoTW Role in OMYA Water-Taking Permit

by David Taylor, Interim President

   In May, the FoTW determined that it was necessary to take action on this issue when OMYA (Canada) appealed to the Ontario Minister of Environment to revoke the February decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT).
   The ERT decision contains several important conditions concerning the monitoring of this major water-taking permit (specifically, Conditions 30, 31 and 32), which OMYA asked be nullified.  In addition to approving a substantial amount of water that OMYA may withdraw from the Tay River, the ERT decision requires the company to provide the local community with data and reports on water use under the permit.  The FoTW is listed as one of the potential recipients of this information, with 3 other resident groups and 6 municipalities.  The decision also requests that the Government of Ontario enforce its Statement of Environmental Values - which the Government has declared but never instituted.
   OMYA has the right to both a legal and political appeal on this decision.  However, in the opinion of many, including this Board, the legal appeal through the court should be heard first.  For this reason, the FoTW wrote to the Minister of the Environment, Chris Stockwell, to ask that he withhold consideration of OMYA's request for a political decision until after the company's appeal to the Divisional Court is heard.
   In April, OMYA also contacted several local municipal Councils - apparently to obtain support for their appeal.  This resulted in motions being developed in the Perth and Lanark Highlands Councils, and a move by the Perth Council representatives to County Council to have a similar motion adopted by that political body.  In a bizarre reversal, OMYA's consultant, Bryce Bell, later advised the BBS Council that they should not "get involved in issues of (such) complexity, which are currently under appeal".  BBS was one of the Councils that OMYA had targeted for support in April.
   It was apparent that not all the municipalities - or all County Councillors - were fully aware of the implications of the motions concerning the special conditions of the ERT decision.  To rectify this, the respondents to the appeals made presentations to all 6 local Councils in May and June, asking that they support the Tribunal decision by writing to the Minister of the Environment.
   The final result on the part of the Councils was:

   In summary, the FoTW played the role of an interested observer throughout the 2 year process of the original appeals.  This position was taken in order to remain neutral and represent the interests of all stakeholders in the watershed.  However, when the second round of appeals threatened to revoke the important conditions gained for community organizations such as the FoTW and important environmental conditions contained in the ERT decision, the FoTW had an obligation, in keeping with its mandate, to protect those important gains.  We thus took a more active role with the approval of the Board of Directors.  The ERT decision marks an important step forward for grass-roots based groups in Ontario, such as ours, and it is important that as a group we work to keep those gains.

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Recent Water Levels and Flow in the Tay River and Bobs and Crow Lakes
by Joe Slater

   The recent major fluctuations in water levels in the Tay River Watershed have had people asking for more information on the significance and impact.  The following is a summary of an article on this by Joe Slater, a Director of FoTW and a retired water resources engineer.
   The unique feature of this year's high water in the Tay River and Bobs/Crow Lakes is that it has occurred as a result of well above normal rainfall in June following a high Spring freshet.  In fact, following the Spring maximum, which occurred on April 16, Bobs Lake was in recession until almost mid-June when it began to rise to its new maximum for the year.  The high water throughout our region resulted in the Rideau Canal Office closing the Canal system for several days, including the scheduled opening day.
   What is the historic significance of this year's high water?  The level of Bobs Lake has reached or exceeded an elevation of 163.00 m only about 9 times in the past century.  This year's high water level of 163.05 m, reached on June 20, is the highest since 1980 when it reached 163.00 m.  The record high water level occurred in 1943 when the lake reached 163.07 m.  Other years when the levels exceeded 163.00m include 1969, 1951 and 1947.  There is a possibility this level was also exceeded in 1916, 1909 and 1908, but the datum for these early records have to be verified as the dam at Bolingbroke was completely rebuilt in 1915 and had a new sill installed in 1933.
   Bobs Lake entered last winter with a water level of 161.58 m, which was 0.20 m over average, due to heavy rains in late October and early November.  As December and January were very warm, there was very little frost and snow.  The ice cover on both Bobs and Crow Lakes did not completely form until January 19.  Ice thickness ranged from 5 to 15 cm, providing very weak ice, and few people were on the ice this past winter.  Ice cover left the lakes on April 11.
   Between February and April this year, under the chair of Parks Canada-Rideau Canal Office, the regional water authorities met periodically to assess precipitation and related data and to plan spring management actions for the control of water levels and flow in the Rideau Canal system.  These authorities include Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Ministry of Natural Resources, CRCA, City of Ottawa, and the Granite Power Corporation.  The February and early March meetings were dominated by talk of little runoff and possibly another summer of low water.  However, in the 3rd week of March there was a series of large snowfalls, which quickly melted and caused the lakes to rapidly refill to above the rule curve target of 162.70 m, reaching a maximum of 162.89 m on April 17.
   The discharge from Bobs Lake, which is controlled by Parks Canada at Bolingbroke Dam, was kept low through March, but increased quickly during early April.  The objective was to hold the flow above 10 cubic metres per second (cms) until the lake level receded to its normal summer level (162.70 m), which was expected in late April.  This, coupled with very high downstream tributary flows, resulted in high water levels in Christie Lake and all of the lower Tay River to Port Elmsley.  Flooding below Bolingbroke can occur whenever the flows in the Tay River exceed 11.8 cms.  This is the level at which the river begins to be impeded through the lowest of the downstream bridge openings.
   Bobs Lake continued to drop during early May and held more or less constant until the heavy rains began on June 13th (50 mm) and June 14th (100 mm).  At this time, the large inflows from upstream lakes, in particular Fish and Eagle Creeks and Crow Lake, raised the lake level to 163.05 m.  The large outflow at Bolingbroke Dam, 17.7 cms, eventually raised Christie Lake to a level of 155.41 m, about 1.01 m above target, normal summer levels.
   Although Ottawa rain data does not apply directly to this region, it is interesting to note that 224.8 mm fell there in June, compared to the normal of 76.9 mm.

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Update on OMYA:  Tay River Water Taking Appeal
by Carol Dillon

   On February 19, 2002, the Environmental Review Tribunal issued its decision regarding the request by OMYA (Canada) for a permit to withdraw a substantial quantity of water from the Tay River.  This decision, which came after a 2 year review process, was a reasonable compromise between the needs of an expanding industry and the concerns of citizens for the water resources of the Tay River Watershed.
   The decision allows the company to take twice as much water as its current groundwater permits allow, to switch from groundwater to better quality surface water, and to build a pumping station/pipeline on the Tay River.  For citizens, the decision allows less than the 4,500 cubic metres (approximately 1 million gallons) per day OMYA requested, shortens the permit term from 10 to 6 years, and includes important rights for local communities to be informed and consulted about the management of local water.  The decision takes a precautionary approach to matters of water which will benefit the Tay River Watershed now and other communities throughout Ontario in the future.
   However, in March 2002, OMYA appealed the decision to the Minister of the Environment on points of fact, and to the Divisional Court on points of law.  The original appellants have responded to the appeals and are now working on that process.  The Canadian Environmental Law Association has agreed to provide legal counsel for the respondents.  At this time, it is not known when the appeals will be heard.
   Because these appeals will entail substantial costs, a fund has been established - the Tay River Legal Defence Fund - to help with these costs.  Donations may be sent to the Tay River Legal Defence Fund at 83 Cockburn St., Perth, ON, K7H 2B7.

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Discovery Centre
by Cam MacLeod

   A priority action of the Tay Watershed Management Plan's 3-year work plan is the establishment of a "Tay Watershed Discovery Centre".
   The Discovery Centre would have a 2 fold objective:  1. a Communications and information system with electronic data base and communications and 2. a heritage Tay Watershed Interpretive Centre in the Tay Basin in the heart of Perth.
   The Interpretative Centre would provide information on the Tay River Watershed, its history, its fauna and flora, lakes and rivers, the Tay Canal, and also information on camping, canoeing, hiking, fishing, sailing, and swimming and related local services and businesses.  The data base files would include water quality and biodiversity data, forestry and agricultural information, maps, and also locations of important endangered species, invasive species, ANSIs (Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest), Provincially Significant Wetlands and ESAs (Environmentally Sensitive Areas).
   The Town of Perth has made application for a grant from the Ontario Small Town and Rural Development (OSTAR) initiative for development of the Perth Market and Community Square Project in the Tay Basin.  A heritage log house is being sought as an interpretative centre, for moving to the Basin site beside the Little Tay River across from the Perth Library.
   Any organizations or individuals interested in supporting, organizing or otherwise helping with the Discovery Centre are invited to contact members of the FoTW, Cam MacLeod (264-9925) or Orion Clark (267-4939).

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The Nutrient Management Act (Bill 81)
by Orion Clark

   This recent Provincial Act will provide for the development of standards for the control of all land-applied materials that contain nutrients (i.e. manure, commercial fertilizers, bio-solids).  The objective is to have all such land-applied materials managed according to a Nutrient Management Plan, and Municipalities will have the Act as support for their land use planning and for building code approvals.
   The standards will be phased in, depending on the type of operation and its size (or the risk to the environment).  Local advisory committees will be required to promote awareness of the new rules and mediate local nutrient management issues that are not related to enforcement.
   The government, through the Environmental Protection Act, is committed to banning the land application of untreated septage over a 5 year period.
   Bill 81 can be viewed at www.gov.on.ca/omafra.

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Dams in the Town of Perth

   The dilapidated Haggart and Rainbow Bridge dams upstream from Stewart Park in Perth were the subject of a well-attended public information meeting on July 30th at the Perth Legion Hall.  The meeting was called and led by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, the agency responsible for maintenance and operation of the dams.
   RVCA's purpose in calling the meeting was to inform the local community about the present condition of the structures, their water management functions, the planning and design process that would apply to any reconstruction or rehabilitation project, and the options (in very broad terms) that might be considered if such a project was initiated.
   Presentations were made by RVCA staff members, Bruce Reid and Patrick Larson.  Jack Walker, a long time resident and former worker on the dams, also provided useful information.  A copy of the RVCA presentation will be place on the RVCA website, www.rideauvalley.on.ca.
   The RVCA's primary message was that the initiation of a project to deal with the dams' condition (starting with a feasibility study) will depend on the degree of local community interest.  It is unlikely that it could be funded entirely out of the RVCA General Levy since there is a lack of funds and the limited role that the structures play in the whole watershed.  At this time, the options range from demolition to total restoration.
   Local residents, members of Council and members of community organizations gave useful information and comments.  Many views were expressed on the future role of the dams and their potential benefit to the community (including aesthetics, tourism, heritage, control of water levels upstream and in Perth, and the supply of hydro power.  The purpose of the current Haggart Island dams constructed in 1970 was the control of water levels and flow through Stewart Park and central Perth.  Some people feel that the current design could have done more to fill this need.
   One resident said that this spring was the first time that he has seen migrating fish trying to jump over the Rainbow Bridge dam, which has now lost some of its upper logs.
   As one local resident pointed out, this is an issue that impacts all of Perth.  It is unfortunate that the meeting did not receive wider publicity.  Specific invitations were addressed only to adjacent landowners, and a newspaper ad was published the week before.  It is also of considerable interest to community organizations, including FoTW, and to local businesses.  We hope, along with the RVCA, that this meeting will be a catalyst within the community and an opportunity for increasing the economic, social and environmental benefits from the Tay River.

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Past issues of the newsletter are available for viewing:

Volume 1, Issue 1 (March 2002).