Whitewater seeks aid to open and maintain boat launch

·2 min read

Cobden -- Whitewater Region will approach federal and provincial partners to formally request financial assistance with maintaining the Westmeath boat launch and access to the section of the Ottawa River between the Pembroke rapids and Rapid Road rapids.

The boat launch has been the problem child of the township for some years now because of a buildup of silt which recurs every year.

Council had authorized the withdrawal of $40,000 from its reserves, to be matched by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), with the resulting $80,000 to be used mainly for dredging at the Westmeath location to return that facility to functionality. However, the DFO has indicated it will not support that initiative because of the extent of the work required and because the source of the problem, flowing into the river at that location, continues to deposit fresh silt every spring.

Last summer’s low water levels have had the Westmeath docks almost sitting on the ground.

“The conditions are such that the dredging would have to be done almost every year,” Parks and Recreation Manager Jordan Durocher told council earlier. “In the past, the dredging was done by volunteers using Hyhoes (excavators) on rafts. But now that would require a lot of permits and jumping through hoops with the ministry. It wouldn’t be viable for them (DFO) or for the township.”

One option being considered was relocating the boat launch but there are no suitable locations in that area. Furthermore, DFO will not cost-share on establishing new facilities; only on maintaining existing ones.

The preamble to the recommendation approved at the November 17 meeting of Whitewater council noted that, in addition to the silt problem, there is believed to be a species at risk located near the boat launch that would require an environmental study before any work could be attempted.

“This work and cost is believed to be substantial (greater than $200,000) and will do nothing to prevent subsequent buildup of silt,” said the recommendation, brought forward by Councillor Neil Nicholson.

“It is believed that this boat launch is a key piece of infrastructure for not only the public but also the DFO, the Ministry of Northern Development, Natural Resources, and Forestry (MNDNRF), the OPP, and Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP) to provide needed access to the area. Although limited DFO funding is available to contribute to the upkeep of the existing capital infrastructure (a cement ramp), initial discussions with DFO staff have indicated that funds are not available to assist with the removal of silt,” the recommendation continued.

“If it is determined that the DFO launch…is the best strategic option to provide access to this large portion of the Ottawa River….then all three levels of government must work together to fund and manage a project to open and maintain the Westmeath boat launch,” the resolution concluded.

Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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