Public meeting in Perth to discuss Rocky Ramp impact on the Tay draws big crowd
Glen Wright has lived on the banks of the little Tay for the past 61 years and he’s seen a lot of change over the years, but this is different.
“Water is life, and if we take the life out of our river and our river right now is dying, and it’s hard to see that happening,” said Wright (pictured below) with a catch in his throat. “I have four benches where we sit and watch the river and it’s wildlife, we get mink, otters, beavers and muskrats, but their homes are going away because there’s no water.”
Wright was one of the many residents and business people to address the Public Meeting held on Tuesday Oct 15 to discuss the effects of the Rocky Ramps. His was an impassioned plea to save the river, and his voice was one of many others who spoke from the heart. The meeting saw a mix of passionate pleas and factual analysis, with both residents and businesses expressing their alarm and displeasure with the state of the Little Tay and its Rocky Ramp.
“A great deal of information was shared, I thought everybody had a very respectful exchange, it was very sincere, at times it was emotional because people are tied to the river, “ said Mayor John Fenik (pictured below)
Information ranged from the historical, to the anecdotal and even legal.
“There are unfunded liabilities to the town for not taking into account Riparian Rights,” pointed out Peter Hargadon.
Riparian Rights give waterfront property owners some protection against unreasonable changes to water flow abutting their land. In Ontario, riparian rights are preserved in common law, there is no legislation that explicitly established riparian rights on Ontario, according to Graytone Environmental, an environmental legal firm.
For most people the issue is a reduction in the flow of water on the Little Tay. In the absence of any concrete data on how much the flow of water has or hasn’t been reduced by the Rocky Ramp the perception is that the ramps are not performing their function of splitting the flow 20/80 down the Little and Big Tay but that the Little Tay is seeing about 12, possibly 15 per cent flow.
“The little Tay is filling up with vegetation, it smells as garbage accumulates, and the static water is a great breeding ground for mosquitoes. It’s not good for our health or our town,” said Ann Hogan.
Algae blooms have been high in all Ontario waterways this year and have been increasing over the past 10 years as a result of climate change, according to Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) environmental planner and biologist Mike Yee.
“When you have 30ºC temperatures with 40ºC humidex that’s a factor that favours algae, with then you also have higher evaporation, lowering the water levels, and little replenishment. This summer we had fast and sudden downpours that didn’t penetrate the dried out earth but became runoff that washed phosphorus off the land and into the water which acts as a fertilizer for algae,” explained Yee.
Yee’s argument is that there are numerous factors that have contributed to the changes on the Little Tay, not all of them related to the Rocky Ramp.
“Right now the water level on the Tay is lightly below average for this time of year,” Brian Stratton, manager of engineering with RVCA, told Lake88 on Sept 3.
Normal flow into the Tay from Bob’s Lake is 4.85 cubic meters/second in September, but this year the flow was down slightly to 4.60 cubic meters/second according to Stratton. “We are in a level one drought because of the dry summer, there isn’t enough water in the system, because there’s been very little rainfall since the first of July,” he explained back in September.
Whatever the factors that are affecting the Little Tay, it was clear at the Town Hall meeting that residents are concerned, passionate and demanding change.
“I want an answer, because I’m telling you the status quo is not an option,” concluded Fenik.
The issue will be coming back to council for discussion at a Committee of the Whole meeting, with a view to creating a committee made of residents, RVCA, Parks Canada, Matrix and town staff to come up with a solution and action plan.
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