Eels lake cottagers

Category: Water Committee

Several members of the Water Committee undertook a depth survey study in the Fall of 2017. That study was presented to the Trent Severn Waterway this Spring (May 25) to show the number of cottagers that would be affected should the water ever be lowered below 4 logs in our dam. The purpose was to establish the fact that safe boating and access to certain properties would be negatively affected should TSW ever decide to implement an emergency drawdown. By clicking on: “Eels Lake Water Survey” (Methodology) and “Table of Survey Depths” you can view the results.

Acronyms Used:
TSW Trent Severn Waterway
ELCA Eels Lake Cottagers Association
CEWF Coalition of Equitable Water Flow

Location of Meeting:
TSW Offices in Peterborough

In Attendance:
TSW Management:
Colin Clarke (Water Engineer – interim)
Jewel Cunningham (Director of Ontario Waterways)

ELCA Water Committee:
Peter Philp
Ernie Bruns
Sandy Kilgour
Don Davis


Introductions were conducted all around and Jewel indicated that the permanent posting for Water Engineer was still open. Interviews would be conducted shortly. It was unclear if Colin was interested
in the job as he has to commute from Smith Falls.

1. Don started the discussion by asking if the TSW was in contact with
senior environmentalists in Ottawa who are looking at the bigger
general question of Climate Change?

Jewel answered that unfortunately no, even though they would welcome
any information or direction concerning this topic.  She added that
they had identified certain contacts within the Ontario Ministry of
the Environment with whom they planned to liaise with in the future.
The only information that they had reviewed along these lines
was an on-line Aecon study which had some
projections that were specific to Peterborough County.
They had also taken some steps to obtain additional information from the
field by installing more monitoring stations, to obtain faster
information and maintain this accumulated data. This data hopefully
will assist TSW in future. She also
indicated that they had revised the Water Management Advisory Group
with additional technical professionals (ie; engineers), to look at
the infrastructure and water levels of the future. This group will no
longer include political type stakeholders with greater emphasis to be
placed on Water Management Science.
Also, they are working with the CEWF to study drought situations plus navigational areas –
the Rideau system vs the Trent. This hopefully will result in a
general ‘drought plan’ for both waterways.  Jewel felt that the
mitigating low water strategies applied in 2016 were successful and
they intend to document these for future reference.

2. Colin was then asked to provide a short overview of how and when
these mitigating steps were applied during the summer.  We all
recognized that the situation was very well managed by him.

He started by identifying that the season had been forecast to be an average
year with average water levels. The bush/forest in general
did not provide a lot of snow pack, but after the early melt they
encountered much higher water levels over the region thanks to a
Colorado low pressure system that arrived in southern Ontario.  By May
31st however, the Trent System experienced minimum water flows
requiring a period of intense water flow monitoring.  For the first time
TSW used ‘cinder rocks’, which are like lava, to block holes in
leaky dams. This material, which is relatively inexpensive, was
dumped in front of a leaky dams to seal or clog the leaking areas.

The whole summer in general was extremely dry and was in fact a severe
drought. To conserve as much water as possible in July, Rice Lake
(which is very large) plus other central lakes and all of the
reservoir lakes such as ours were kept much higher than normal.
Additionally the flow through rivers/lakes experienced extremely low
flow rates with some areas actually hitting 30 year low flow rates.

When it did rain, Colin arranged to have logs replaced in all the dams,
even on weekends, to capture as much water as possible.
In August it was necessary to draw on the water being held back and in
the case of Eels water levels were reduced very quickly.  At this point in
time they were utilizing water from everywhere until it finally rained in
late August. This thankfully relieved the dire situation. The fall
resulted in the usual draw down to winter set.

3. Don asked the obvious question as to what would have happened if it
had not rained?

This question was avoided by Jewel. She indicated that they would have
looked at all options with a view to balance the system.  In her
response she used the phrase “extreme drought” to describe the
this past summer. She further reiterated that their priority during this
period was to “balance” the needs of both the canal and surrounding lakes
and rivers.
Peter asked if they ever tried to have the legislation amended
relative to the required draft they must maintain for boat traffic on
the canal.
Jewels detailed that no, that would take years. She further explained that
the depth required varied by location. As an
example, in the Rideau system this summer, Colin detailed that the
levels were kept at the lower end of the range for most of the summer.
(total range is 6 feet).

4. A discussion followed around our understanding relative to 8 logs
vs 12 logs and what assurances if any, we have as to future water
management programs?

Jewel indicated that the TSW was changing their approach to
consider all stakeholder interests when water levels are drawn down
with an objective to seek more “balance” across the system.  She
considers this approach to be a “change in culture” for the TSW and
its’ stakeholders.  Moreover, she went on to stress that in the future
there will be many more variables to consider when applying this more
balanced strategy.

Work currently underway with the CEWF is to capture the principals of
the drought process with a more holistic approach. For example, using data
that has been captured regarding water flow lag times in the system – ie:
water from Eels takes 3 days to make a difference on Stoney Lake

The Dave Ness ‘Modified Draw Down Analysis’ was raised but there has been
no appetite to review this work or the proposal.  She said that this
option was not being pursued because the CEWF at this point is not
prepared to support the “9 vs 8 log in” scenario.

5.  She was asked about the status of the announced capital
expenditure program for the Trent-Severn.

Her response was that the work program has been moving forward well
these last 2 years.  The most pressing need has been in dealing with
water leakage around certain dams citing the Peterborough Lift Lock
as the worst and Dam #1 at Trenton the second worst in the system.
She identified that the new hydraulic infrastructure to be built under the
program will help with water retention efforts. She was unable however to
quantifyat this time what the resulting impact would be.

6. Sandy then introduced what he sees as ‘Our Insurance Policy’ which
we wanted to share with the TSW.

He indicated that the elephant in the room was the question of what would
happen if there was insufficient water available in the system for drawdown. Would the TSW
consider to draw down our 4th log?

In Sandy’s opinion, it was not a question of if but when this
would happen?  He outlined the legal process of acquiring
an Injunction, which would be needed in this situation.  He then laid out the
reasons for our heightened concern and potential future action.

In support of our position, that the TSW cannot draw down past the 4th log, he informed
TSW that we have in-hand a formal legal opinion, under Common Law,
supporting this matter. In addition, he identified the two possible legal outcomes and stated that we were prepared to pursue our rights with a $100,000 war chest that had been donated by a long time cottager on the lake to cover our legal cost should such action be necessary.  These
funds will be placed in a separate account and maintained to protect
future generations, should the 4th log be drawn.  He stressed that
this action puts the TSW on notice that we mean business and they
should fully think it through if they elect to pull the fourth log
from our dam.  Jewel appeared to understand the process and situation
and thanked Sandy for sharing this information.

8.  Don asked about the current and future boat traffic demands on the Trent.

Jewel stated that during the past 5 years there has been a 49% reduction
in boat traffic.  She reiterated the historic role that the canal has
played in Canada’s past and that its future was secure. However, they
are actively looking to develop new economic opportunities
both on and off the canal such as commercial tours for example.

9.   The meeting was adjourned until the spring meeting by which time
Colin’s replacement should be employed in their new role.

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