Much of the Coalition of Equitable Water Flow’s annual communications meeting held Sept. 14 at the Haliburton fish hatchery celebrated the work done through what was described as being a “critical relationship” between CEWF and the Trent-Severn Waterway and how the water management experience has changed and improved despite more variabilities and extremes as a result of the effects of climate change.
The meeting marked the last for Jewel Cunningham who was recently named executive director Ontario and Waterways for Parks Canada after seven years in the role of director Ontario Waterways field unit Parks Canada. She praised a “phenomenal positive working relationship” with CEWF joking that “at times you’ve challenged us to death …”
“In the early years of my beginning when you know the first spring of that was 2013 all of you and your executive really did a phenomenal job in training me with regards to water management and assisting me in my knowledge of what that was all about” she said at the meeting where chair Ted Spence presented her with a gift for her work. “Certainly an interesting component of our work on the TSW. It’s really been a tremendous learning opportunity.”
Cunningham said that since then the TSW has filled the gap in regards to communications during major flood events engaging an entire communications team co-ordinating daily calls during spring freshet events and modernizing the website with real-time information. Additionally a draft management plan for the Trent Severn Waterway national historic site has been created at visioning sessions involving CEWF members and other organizations and will be presented to the public in the new year. Spence noted it’s the first time a new management plan has been created in 20 years and that the CEWF would be calling on members to voice their input which Cunningham also encouraged.
“Over those last six years we’ve had a variety of historic flooding events and historic drought events” said Cunningham. “There’s no doubt that the world is changing it’s forced us to change as an organization. I think how we’ve approached things is very different from when it started and to where we are today. There’s still lots of room for improvement but also lots of ways in which we have improved.”
Cunningham spoke to Parks Canada’s capital program which has seen $24 million invested in the reservoir lakes area. She noted work replacing the Kennisis Lake and Mississagua Lake dams was complete as is the Drag Lake North Dam and Loon Lake Dam rehabilitation and Little Bob Lake Dam and Big Bob Lake Dam repair is complete. Ongoing projects include the Twelve Mile Lake Dam replacement expected to be completed in fall 2020 Horseshoe Lake Dam replacement expected to be completed in spring 2020 and Coboconk Dam rehabilitation expected to be completed in fall 2020. The Red Pine Lake Dam replacement begins in spring 2020. An engineering review of Haliburton dams will take place this year which will include a complete engineering inspection of all dams in the reservoir area that have not been part of a recent construction project.
“This is the largest investment of infrastructure renewal since the creation of the TSW” said Cunningham. “Not only that but every single asset has been inspected looked at assessed prioritized and it’s a huge body of work so we’ll have assets in really good condition once we’re out of this program which is scheduled to end in about three four years.”
The CEWF a volunteer organization formed in August 2006 represents just more than 30 lake associations promoting integrated water management across the entire Trent River watershed.
Activities in CEWF’s 2019 work plan review included working with the TSW on water management; participating in the TSW strategic planning visioning workshops; weekly or bi-weekly communication with the water manager; and it was reported that good progress has been made in making TSW graphs more valuable with continued discussions to provide access to historical data.
Anna Ciorap water management manager spoke to the extensive monitoring network the TSW uses now to gather and analyze data on water levels and flows snowpack measurements and precipitation amounts noting challenges with inaccurate weather forecasts.
Liz Danielsen attending the meeting as county warden noted the LIDAR mapping program has been delayed due to weather but that photography work would start again soon to assist the county with flood planning. She praised the CEWF for their efforts.
“I just am always amazed at the dedication the knowledge the hard work that all of you have put into protecting our water levels and just working together so collaboratively” she said.
Spence acknowledged the “really quite incredible season that we’ve been through.”
“We’re all experiencing kind of almost-normal water levels and we’ve had almost 12 weeks without rain over many parts of the reservoir – that’s pretty spectacular and it certainly wouldn’t have happened 15 or 20 years ago” he said. “The critical thing here is they are making daily decisions now based on real data to send the crews into the field to manipulate the dams all the way from the top of Haliburton to Lake Ontario. They know far more than they ever have before in terms of data and to [Ciorap’s] efforts they have analysis capability far beyond what most of us could have imagined. That’s what we’re seeing the results of.”
Presentation materials from the CEWF 2019 annual meeting as well as water level forecasts archived information and further resources will be posted on the CEWF website at cewf.ca.