June 19, 2011

Rideau River safety and erosion

Recently, Parks Canada held a meeting (invited people of their choosing) about "Risk Assessment of the Rideau Canal System" from Kemptville to Hogs Back. They invited me because I am the webmaster of "Pat's Boating in Canada", and also a boater and shore resident.

The list of attendees were 3 politicians, 2 police, 2 Canadian Power And Sail (CPS), Friends of The Rideau, 2 Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, 5 Wakeboard and Ski Schools, 3 Shoreline Residents, 1 Marina (!), 8 Parks Canada, Muskoka Lakes Association (?), and last but by no means least - the author of the risk assessment report.

The comments in the report about 'noise' were insulting and irrelevant to any type of risk. Shoreline destruction was mostly ignored. After reading the report recommendations and list of attendees, I decided not to go. I figured we were just there to rubber stamp the report. (A boater/landowners who attended said he was sent to a discussion of a section of the Rideau not even close to where he lived or boated.)

The report was obviously written by someone who obviously had never boated on the Rideau, witnessed a collision, nearly hit by a boat while swimming, witnessed close-calls of water-skiers too close to other boats, witnessed boats being damaged by wakes, watched drunken skippers after dark, witnessed boats almost sink from wakes, or watched so many having to rebuild their shoreline due to erosion.

I also had the shore-side experiences of having my well-tied runabout almost sink when wakes from large boats hit the boat, then the break wall and back on the boat. Even with an extra line holding it away from the dock, it had dock scars and took on water. We moved the boat to a marina when we went on a holiday just so we wouldn't have to worry about it breaking the dock, itself or sinking from water over the stern. I finally got tired of worrying about it, and sold it. We still have a canoe and kayak but it just isn't fun to paddle in the wakes and the river isn't wide enough to avoid them. I gave up trying to swim here several years ago, since you have to swim in the weeds close to shore or risk being run over.

In addition, it cost us a huge amount of money to repair the erosion of our property. Even with a steel break wall, we finally had to spend 5 figures to get the wall removed and the entire shore rebuilt to Conservation standards.

When we started boating over 30 years ago, a 28-foot boat was considered a big boat. People who threw wakes passing a marina or slower boats were yelled at. Times have changed dramatically, but the regulations have not changed at all. We now live on the river near one of the largest Sea-ray dealers anywhere. (It's actually the mechanics testing the boats that throw the largest wakes, not the boat owners.) In addition to the many water-skiers that have always used the river, there are now several "wake-boarding" schools. Although small, they must throw a large wake for the person to ride. On a Sunday, you will always see at least 3-4 speed boats in the 40-50 ft. range. In summer, add in the steady traffic of cruising boats travelling the waterway. I guess until someone actually has a collision or chops up a tows full of kids, or has a break wall collapse into the river, no one will do anything about so many boats of all sizes, some travelling very slow, others at high speed, using a river that was more designed for fishing.