French River – Lake Nipissing Water Levels Part III of III




April 2012

Submitted by the Communications Committee


There is an analogy that perfectly fits the Lake Nippissing and French River relationship.  The French River is like the drain in a bathtub. The dams are like the plug in the sink.  When the plug is in place, no water goes down the drain.  Pull the plug and down goes the water level.  The only method of control over the river flows and levels is how much water is being discharged at any given time.  With no controls down river, this situation will never change!

The last substantial flood on Lake Nippissing and the French River occurred in 1979.  The Sturgeon River flooded so badly, the Town of Field was moved to higher ground after the high water receded.  This flood prompted the Province to begin a flood reduction study that was ongoing for several years.  The Province refused to take over the operation of the dams from the Federal Department of Public Works, who really wanted to be rid of this responsibility.  The Ministry of Natural Resources made a decision to become more involved with the complexities of water level management in the Lake Nippissing and French River watershed.

Today the Ministry of Natural Resources has taken a lead role in coordinating an extensive undertaking in order to anticipate water level issues as they may arise from Lake Temagami to Georgian Bay.  To assist with this considerable task, an informal advisory committee was formed. The committee is comprised of knowledgeable individuals representing the different sections of the entire watershed.

The French River Resorts Association (FRRA) represents the French River area. There is also representation from around Lake Nipissing, from Ontario Power Generation and from the upper watershed, north of Nippissing to Temagami.  The advisory group, with MNR leadership, meets personally at least once a year and as needed by tele-conference during critical times.  The group brings a combined knowledge of water issues to all the discussions.  They then try and reach a consensus on what might be the best practice to follow regarding all the control structures in the watershed when there are possible flood or low water concerns.

When making decisions that today dictate how the dams are operated during critical times many criteria are involved.  Public safety and possible damages to property are high on the list.  However, there is now a great deal of consideration given to the Lake and River ecology and the fisheries.  We on the French River will never see stable or optimum levels as we would like.  With no down-river controls it is not possible.  There will be times when our interests will be influenced and possibly sacrificed to a larger population and to a more political power around Lake Nippissing.  But we now receive a great deal more consideration than in the past and if you were to ask some of the folks around North Bay we receive more than we deserve!

Currently, most of the owners of property with frontage on the French River have learned to adapt to ever changing water levels and how to prepare for and cope with those one in a hundred year flood that seems to occur every 25 to 30 years.  Further, it has become obvious that to achieve any success in beneficial water level management there has to be a collaborative effort involving interested and knowledgeable persons all along the watershed.  Everyone must be prepared to win some and lose some.  In any discussions when there is very high water or flood concerns the French River Resorts Association has always expressed one very important criterion.  If there is to be flooding, the pain must be equally shared up and down the system.  Not just Lake Nippissing or just the French River!

From the perspective of the French River Stewardship Council the issue of water levels and how they impact the fisheries is very important.  The Council is spending a lot of effort and considerable money on rehabilitating spawning beds.  All this effort would be to no avail if adverse water levels at spawning time cause the loss of the spawn.  As the years go by there will be an increasing role for the FRSC as older French River Resorts Association members are no longer involved.                             In any event a joint effort is necessary on this issue.  It is obvious that the goals are the same.

In conclusion, if you live or cottage on the French River, water levels, water quality and the fisheries should be very important to you.  Consequently, you can help to safeguard those interests by being an active member of the French River Stewardship Council.  Membership is inexpensive but very important.  Membership numbers mean a lot when the Council is working with government agencies.

Date Added: April 12, 2012 | Comments Off | Filed under: News — Tags: — webedit @ 9:51 pm

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