By Sue Tiffin
Much of the Coalition of Equitable Water Flow’s annual communications meeting held Sept. 14 at the Haliburton fish hatchery celebrated the work done through what was described as being a “critical relationship” between CEWF and the Trent-Severn Waterway and how the water management experience has changed and improved despite more variabilities and extremes as a result of the effects of climate change.
Jewel Cunningham executive director Ontario and Waterways Parks Canada who began working with CEWF about six years ago said that since then the TSW has filled the gap in regards to communications during major flood events engaging an entire communications team coordinating daily calls during spring freshet events and modernizing the website with real-time information.
Additionally a draft management plan for the Trent Severn Waterway national historic site has been created at visioning sessions involving CEWF members and other organizations and will be presented to the public in the new year. Spence noted it’s the first time a new management plan has been created in 20 years and that the CEWF would be calling on members to voice their input which Cunningham also encouraged.
“Over those last six years we’ve had a variety of historic flooding events and historic drought events” said Cunningham. “There’s no doubt that the world is changing it’s forced us to change as an organization. I think how we’ve approached things is very different from when it started and to where we are today. There’s still lots of room for improvement but also lots of ways in which we have improved.”
Cunningham spoke to Parks Canada’s capital program which has seen $24 million invested in the reservoir lakes area. Repairs have been done on several area dams with several more projects soon to be complete.
The CEWF a volunteer organization formed in Aug. 2006 represents just more than 30 lake associations promoting integrated water management across the entire Trent River watershed.
Activities in CEWF’s 2019 work plan review included working with the TSW on water management; participating in the TSW strategic planning visioning workshops; weekly or bi-weekly communication with the water manager; and it was reported that good progress has been made in making TSW graphs more valuable with continued discussions to provide access to historical data.
Anna Ciorap water management manager spoke to the extensive monitoring network the TSW uses now to gather and analyze data on water levels and flows snowpack measurements and precipitation amounts noting challenges with inaccurate weather forecasts.
“We’re all experiencing kind of almost-normal water levels and we’ve had almost 12 weeks without rain over many parts of the reservoir – that’s pretty spectacular and it certainly wouldn’t have happened 15 or 20 years ago” said Spence. “The critical thing here is they are making daily decisions now based on real data to send the crews into the field to manipulate the dams all the way from the top of Haliburton to Lake Ontario. They know far more than they ever have before in terms of data and to [Ciorap’s] efforts they have analysis capability far beyond what most of us could have imagined. That’s what we’re seeing the results of.”
Presentation materials from the CEWF 2019 annual meeting as well as water level forecasts archived information and further resources will be posted on the CEWF web site at cewf.ca.