Report from Mark Breckon on Ottawa River Watershed Study

Published March 1, 2019

In 2017, a motion (M-104) to create an Ottawa River Watershed Report which would bring a comprehensive, inclusive, co-management approach to the Ottawa River Watershed, was agreed to by the Federal Government. This initiative on the quality of the water for fishing, swimming and drinking was and is largely driven for the last 17 years by the Ottawa Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) as per M-104 has now taken a lead role in setting the direction of this initiative. In June 2018, Mark Breckon, a member of the North Renfrew United Landowners was appointed by President, Tom Black to represent the OLA on this study.

Since that time, Mark has submitted two reports about his progress.

Mark reports: “in my first report, I spoke to providing a written response to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) via a portal called Place Speak. https://www.placespeak.com/en/topic/5492-ottawa-river-watershed-study/  At the time I also said I had established a contact within the Ottawa Riverkeeper organization that I was following up on.

Now to the second report. Ottawa Riverkeeper hosted a get together on November 30, 2018 in Ottawa. We did get a seat at the meeting along with some 50 other groups involved with the quality of the water in the River. The objectives were to document all the initiatives currently ongoing in the Watershed by various groups and move towards collecting all in an “information HUB” section within the Keepers website. This section should be up and running in the winter/ spring of 2019.

In the interim, the draft report from ECCC was posted on their website for comments (now closed). See https://www.placespeak.com/en/topic/5492-ottawa-river-watershed-study/ (To see the report, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Additional Resources arrow). It is expected that the final report as noted in the motion (M-104) will be published in about one year from now. It is a long read, so you might want to view the executive summary to get a flavour of where this is headed. The value of the indigenous groups contribution to the initiative cannot be stressed enough. The Ottawa Valley section of the Watershed is unceded territory of the Algonquins First Nations. The draft report recognizes the value of the First Nations women who are the keepers of the water, the elders for their historical wisdom and the youth to inherit this initiative. The Draft report goes on at length to recognize the need to engage the First Nations to play a key role. The focus is on the feasibility of an Ottawa River Watershed Council that is still to be fleshed out. I was able to establish two contacts within ECCC that may give us an inside track to the ongoing Federal Ministry work on this initiative.

The Riverkeeper and ECCC are running two unique separate paths on this initiative which are very related however independent of each other at this point.

As an organization, we will not have a lot to contribute to the Riverkeepers as they are focusing on action items already in progress. I believe at this point that our energy should be with the ECCC while staying a breast of the Riverkeeper work. I am sending an email to the new contacts within ECCC to see if we can get a “seat at the table” to influence the “tone” of their deliberations on the governance of the Watershed.

That’s it for now – a huge, slow, bureaucratic process that has far reaching impact potentially on our property rights.”

Mark also did a presentation on the initiative at the January 17 meeting of the Renfrew County Private Landowners Association which was covered by the Eganville Leader.  Mark is quoted as saying that “concerned parties and politicians believe that Conservation Authorities are not the answer here, that they don’t want it and they see it as being too obtrusive and too governing,” he stressed. “They want a collaborative-type approach where they bring together people, but there’s no one who has authority, other than the document that drives things. So that’s really good news,” he added. “If I read all the language and between the lines, it certainly looks that’s the direction they’re going in.”

Good news indeed.

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