Inondations 2019
Concerned citizens raise questions about the management of the Hydro dams that regulate the water level along the Ottawa River
By Élizabeth Séguin
Article published on 16 May 2019
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Many Quebec and Ontario residents living along the Ottawa River have expressed concerns about the management of the Hydro dams and of the regulation of water levels.

While some areas have experienced floods during the last few weeks, others, such as Rapides-des-Joachims (MRC Pontiac), and Deux-Rivières region, located in the municipality of Head, Clara and Maria, Ontario, the water level is very low.

Deux-Rivières

A resident of the area and former owner of Antler’s Kingfisher Lodge, Doug Antler, has been following the water for several weeks now.

Rapides-des-Joachims

On videos and photos obtained by CHIP 101.9, it is possible to see that on one side of the river, the water level is very low and downstream, on the other side of the dam, the water flows at a fast rate and its level is higher.

Ottawa Power Generation

According to the electricity supplier Ottawa Power Generation (OPG), the water level is maintained at a lower elevation between Mattawa (Otto Holden Generating Station) and Deep River (Des Joachims Generating Station) facilities, specifically between Mattawa and the Klock area, because of what is called a ’natural restriction’.

The OPG spokesman, Neal Kelly, gave details :

Natural Restriction

A swirl effect, such as a whirlpool can occur and extend over 50km, when the flow of the river slows down, when reaching a narrow section or flat area. OPG’s communications explain that, if the water flow is fast, it can start to pile up, causing upstream water levels to rise. In this case, this eddy effect extends to Mattawa.

OPG says it strategically maintains this lower altitude at the Des Joachims dam, to ultimately minimize this effect, so the altitude at Deux-Rivières is low : the goal being to minimize further flooding in the Mattawa area.

Doug Antler about the natural restrictions

Doug Antler made his way upstream of the Ottawa River towards Mattawa earlier this week to see for himself.

Reactions

Antler and several people on social media questioned the accuracy of the calculations that were made to determine the amount of water to withdrawn from Deux-Rivières and the management of dams.

Municipality of Head, Clara and Maria

The Mayor of the municipality of Head, Clara and Maria, Debbi Grills, told CHIP 101,9 that no resident contacted her to voice their concerns about the low river level. “In my opinion, the water is always low at this time of the year. It appears to me, with no scientific data to support, that the low water level is lasting longer than usual,” Grills told CHIP 101.9.

Mattawa is looking for answers

CHIP 101.9 had the opportunity to talk with Mattawa’s general manager about. The CEO, Raymond Bélanger.

When will the water level be restored in Deux-Rivières?

Once the flow of the river has decreased to the extent, that the natural rapids will no longer create the eddy (swirl) effect, which exposes Mattawa to the risk of flooding, OPG will increase the water levels from Des Joachims to normal operating levels.

On the other hand, it is raised by some people on social networks, by residents of the municipality of Head, Clara and Maria and also by the mayor of the place that this very low water level, remains at this point on a longer period of time than in the past.

Impact of the lowering of the Ottawa River in the Deux-Rivières area

For Doug Antler and his son, Jarett, who has just bought the Antler’s Kingfisher Lodge, said that their season should have already begun and that this cut has already affected the company. This has consequences for the lodge’s turnover.

Dam management

Neal Kelly from Ottawa Power Generation explained how the decisions are made in different areas along the river, and that many people have an implication in the management of the dams:

And the MRC Pontiac?

The Warden of MRC Pontiac, Jane Toller, mentioned that she wants to work with the various stakeholders involved in the management of the hydro dams along the Ottawa River to prevent floods like 2019, in the future. She said that she wanted to move forward, focusing not on who is responsible for this year’s floods, but looking towards the future.

Toller also mentioned that she would like a political organization to be set up, consisting of the wardens from each region of the Outaouais, the warden of the Renfrew County, as well as the mayors of Gatineau and Ottawa in order to establishing a strategy to reinforce the dams.

A full report on the subject is available here.

[(Should we better inform citizens about the management of dams?

According to the Minister responsible for the Outaouais, Mathieu Lacombe, yes.

In an interview with CHIP 101.9, Mathieu Lacombe said it was too early to think of a Parliamentary commission for the investigation into the management of the Hydro dams, but did not reject the idea.

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