News from North Renfrew United Landowners by Dawn Jeffries

Mark Breckon, vice president of the North Renfrew United Landowners (NRUL), rolled out the NRUL website at a general meeting of the NRUL members on Thursday, October 15 at the Deep River library. The website was developed in order to fulfill the NRUL’s mandate to educate its members, and the general public at large, about private property rights. NRUL is the third chapter of the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) to have their own website.

Members of the audience were impressed with the search capabilities of the website. Searches of articles can be done on individual words or phrases, or by predefined categories. A suggestion to include a membership form has already been implemented. A blog will be added in the near future and other suggestions for improvements are welcome. Check out the website at

Janis Gulens, treasurer of the NRUL, then reviewed a draft constitution. The draft was an attempt to define in words who the NRUL is, what it wants to accomplish and how it will achieve those goals. It was purposely written with broad and general guidelines, trying not to be too restrictive. Members have until November 2 to make suggestions for changes to the draft constitution to any members of the executive. The executive will then prepare a final version of the constitution for presentation to the membership for ratification at the next meeting on November 19 at 7 p.m. in the Deep River library.

The third order of business was a discussion on the direction the NRUL should pursue in the future.

Four members of the NRUL attended the Ottawa Riverkeeper Annual Public meeting in Ottawa on October 6. Ottawa Riverkeeper is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.. Ottawa Riverkeeper is an independent, non-government, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the health of the Ottawa River and its tributaries.

Meredith Brown, Riverkeeper, summarized the highlights of the year. One of their ongoing initiatives is to obtain Heritage River status for the Ottawa River by 2017 for Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation.

Guest speakers were Roch Bérubé, Executive Engineer, and Michael Sarich, Regulation Engineer, from the Ottawa River Regulation Secretariat. They gave a presentation on Dams, Water Levels and Climate Change on the Ottawa River watershed.

Bérubé explained that there were major floods on the Ottawa River in 1960, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1998, and 2002 due to excessive amounts of rainfall or melting snow. Most of the river is “uncontrolled” which means that a drop of rain will flow downstream because there is no storage capacity. Flooding occurs mainly in the uncontrolled areas of the river.

In 1983 an agreement between the Canadian, Ontario, and Quebec governments formed the Ottawa River Regulation Secretariat (ORRS) to manage water levels to provide protection against flooding. The ORRS is not a control board, and it does not have legal authority over operators of control facilities. The integrated management of the river by the ORRS shares the risk of flooding.

There is 13.9 billion m3 of storage capacity, mainly in the swamps in the northern part of the watershed. The average spring runoff is 31 billion m3, which leaves 17 billion m3 excess water to flow downstream. At the ORRS, data on rainfall, snow pack, snow melt, evaporation, infiltration, temperatures, and predicted weather from many stations are input into an Inflow Model. Computer programs model various scenarios to try and predict water levels in the river in the Outflow Model. Accurate predictions are difficult to obtain, because three-day weather forecasts are fairly reliable but 10-day forecasts are definitely not.

Decisions are made collaboratively to release water from dams. It takes almost 2 weeks for water to travel the length of the river. Once water is released at the source it must continue to the St. Lawrence through the 19 reservoirs along the way.

Unpredicted rainfall in Montreal 10 days later can cause flooding. Too much water in the south can be mitigated by holding water back in the north.

It is impossible to predict with precision the beginning of the freshet (snow melt), its magnitude or duration. A 20C day can speed up the process dramatically. Actual water levels and flood warnings at various stations along the river can be found at

The Ottawa River is a complex hydraulic system and there are ongoing challenges to manage the river levels to satisfy the conflicting objectives of different stakeholders from boaters to power generation.
The mandate of the ORRS is to hold back water for flood protection at the expense of hydro production. There are 43 generating stations on the Ottawa River with a capacity of 3500 MW, producing over $1 million worth of energy a day.

Bérubé explained that they do not see any trends regarding climate change. Over the last decade the earliest freshets have been recorded, yet in the last two years we have seen some of the latest freshets.
When asked a question regarding modeling of extreme exceptions that are becoming less exceptional, he replied that historically every river has a “big one” that hasn’t come yet. The fact that most of the big floods came before the ORRS was created is “just luck”. His advice was, “Don’t build on a flood plain”.