News Local

Renfrew County wants CHRS designation for Ottawa River

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer
Standing next to a heritage map of the Ottawa River, Renfrew County Warden Jennifer Murphy and Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet announce the county's intent to be designated as the managing body for the newest river in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer Standing next to a heritage map of the Ottawa River, Renfrew County Warden Jennifer Murphy and Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet announce the county's intent to be designated as the managing body for the newest river in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

 

The County of Renfrew wants to be designated the managing body of the Ottawa River when it officially becomes part of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

County council passed a resolution Wednesday authorizing a letter of intent be sent to the federal government that will express their bid to be the custodians of the 590-kilometre river on the Ontario side. Under the system which was created to recognize outstanding and exemplary rivers across the nation, an entity, which could be a government agency or non-government organization, must be named as managing body.

“This is an ideal fit for the County of Renfrew,” said Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, chairman of the development and property committee, who proposed the upper tier pursue the position.

He pointed out the managing body will be required to monitor the effectiveness of the management plan which will promote strategic goals such as water flow and water quality, maintaining the integrity of cultural and natural features and sites, promoting the public enjoyment of the river and developing partnerships for waterway tourism and sustainabl economic development.

“The goals, intents and actions set out in the management plan require the cooperation and participation of federal and provincial agencies, Algonquin First Nations, waterway communities, and both public and private stakeholders,” Sweet explained. “The management plan does not override any existing policies and regulations, nor does it propose any new legislation.”

The journey to make the Ottawa River a national historic landmark began in 2002 when former Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Len Hopkins formed a committee that sought the river's membership in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. Hopkins drafted a detailed history of the river as part of the submission which was submitted in 2006. For 10 years, the federal government dragged its heels before the current Liberal administration signed off on the designation last summer. While Hopkins did not live to see the river attain this special status, Sweet added he would have been proud to see it come to fruition.

“He referred to it as the grand old lady of Canada,” said Sweet.

The project has not had its critics with many fearing that it would be lead to a conservancy that would restrict development. The province of Quebec had also initially bowed out of the initiative. Even around the county council table, there were some reservations about the development of a management plan.

“That is going to raise more red flags in our municipality,” said Horton Township Mayor Robert Kingsbury, who joined his colleagues in passing the resolution unanimously.

The development and property department would take the lead on co-ordinating the required tasks for the managing body. They would be assisted by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association, who would act as river manager. Sweet noted the county may withdraw as managing body and the river manager at any time without penalty or future commitment. The county wants a significant role in the wake of a private member's motion from Ottawa South MP David McGuinty to create a conservation strategy for the Ottawa River watershed. However, Sweet added the biggest threat so far to the Ottawa River is the city of Ottawa's inability to control sewage flows into the body of water. Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon believes that being the managing body with allow them to control their own destiny.

“It transcends several municipalities and it's part of our vision to expand our brand beyond our borders,” he said. “We are able to balance competing needs. Our view will be pragmatic.”

The official designation ceremony will be held at Petawawa Point on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

SChase@postmedia.com