Some fire bans lifted in townships
The Cataraqui Region (CRCA) and Mississippi Valley (MVCA) Conservation Authorities both upgraded their drought warnings from “minimal” to “moderate” early this week, leaving only one more level to reach, a “severe” warning.
In a release, the CRCA said “Inland lake levels, which had been holding steady through the early part of the drought, have started to decline below target levels. With the continued lack of precipitation, and warm sunny weather, evaporation will be high, and lake levels will continue to fall. Care should be taken with navigation, as lower water levels will expose boaters to hazards that are normally well below the water surface, boat hulls and boat props.”
For their part, the MVCA said on June 30 that, “Flows in the main branch of the river remain at approximately 25% of normal, while flows in the smaller tributaries continue to be roughly 10% of normal for this time of year. All of the upper lakes in the watershed have begun to drop over the last week.”
Quinte Region issued a release on July 6, reiterated a stage 1 or “minimal” low water advisory, but also said, “We are predicting that we will soon be in a Level 2 Low Water Condition and will be meeting with our Low Water Response Team to go over current conditions and weather forecasts.”
Rideau Valley Conservation Authority has not upgraded the drought status, which was issued on June 6, but a further announcement is expected in the coming days.
Fire bans all over the map
There have changes to the fire ban status throughout the region over the past two weeks. As of Tuesday, in the townships of Central, North and South Frontenac, and Addington Highlands, burning is permitted as normal (see the townships' web sites for updates). Throughout the County of Lanark there is a partial burn ban in place, and small cooking fires are permitted. There is a total fire ban in Kingston.
This article will be updated as further information becomes available.
As the weather continues its hot and dry pattern, local conservation authorities are sounding the alarm bells.
The Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority issued a statement this week, on Monday, June 20.
The statement said the Mississippi River is in a minor drought condition, but that the tributaries are now experiencing a moderate to severe drought. Flows in the river are at 25% of the norm and in the tributaries the flows are at 10% of the norm. While lake water levels remain at the summer average, they are starting to drop.
“Water conservation is recommended for everyone within the watershed,” said the statement.
Quinte Region Conservation issued a level 1 low water warning in early June, and has requested that homes and businesses reduce water consumption by 10%.
Both the Cataraqui Region Conservation (CRCA) and Rideau Valley Conservation Authorities (RVCA) issued slightly more optimistic statements just after some heavy rains in early June. On June 7, the CRCA said it was maintaining its minor drought level even though 20-50 mm of rain had fallen on the watershed in the two previous days. On June 9, citing the same rains, the RVCA downgraded its warning to minor. With little rain since then except for heavy but spotty thunderstorms on Monday, the next statements from both the CRCA and RVCA will likely be more dire.
Residents in all districts are advised to check for fire bans before lighting any fires, as bans have been issued in different jurisdictions at different times over the past month (see editorial).
In April, North Frontenac Councilor Gerry Martin, who is the township representative to the board of directors of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA), brought some potentially troubling news to his council.
The dams that control water flow on Kashwakamak Lake, Shabomeka Lake, Mississagagon Lake and Big Gull Lake are all in need of replacement. While the Province of Ontario will likely cover half the estimated $2 million cost, it is unclear where the rest of the money will come from, and Martin said there is a possibility it will end up being levied to North Frontenac ratepayers.
When contacted this week, Paul Lehman, the general manager of the MVCA, said that the board's policy and priorities committee will be looking at how to fund the dam replacements, and will hopefully report back to the MVCA board in the fall.
“The thing is that we have not undertaken any capital projects such as dams in over 25 years, and back then the province paid 85% of the cost,” said Lehman.
MVCA receives funding from municipalities along the watershed, which runs through townships in Frontenac and Lanark County into the City of Ottawa. Municipalities pay into the MVCA based on levels of property assessment, and the City of Ottawa therefore pays the bulk of MVCA costs.
“Some of our members are concerned that the cost of dam replacement will affect our budget and increase our annual levy to members,” said Lehman, “so we will be looking at alternate models to pay the costs.”
Lehman said that the MVCA can levy for work on projects to individual member municipalities according “to the relative benefit to the local townships.”
However, in the case of dams at the source of the system that control water flows, Lehman said it is hard to determine how to assess relative benefit.
In the end, the board of directors will make a final decision on how to fund the dam repairs and replacements that are required in North Frontenac and elsewhere along the route of Mississippi watershed.
At a meeting of North Frontenac Council last week, Councilor Martin said that he is less worried about the potential for large costs being downloaded to the township than he was back in April.
“They seem to be working something out,” he said.