Implementation of the following recommendations are focused on agencies outside the jurisdiction or control of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). In those cases, I would expect that the MNRF can initiate discussions with the particular agency to try and seek agreement for implementation of a recommendation, in full or in part.

All three agencies below provided me with a considerable amount of material either in written form or in PowerPoint presentations, including very descriptive pictures, graphs and charts, during the review. A lot of the information is technical, but goes into considerable detail about their operations before, during and after the flood, including decisions that were made. Some of this information has already been presented to citizens in public meetings.

7.1 International Joint Commission

Part of the general public and some stakeholder groups seem to misunderstand how the structures on the St. Lawrence River work and what effect the operation of those structures has during extreme floods. In particular, some believe that the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) operation of the structures has a negative impact on Lake Ontario or even Ottawa River flooding. However, it is important to understand that while the IJC’s responsibilities include the regulation of outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence River, they cannot fully regulate the water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and they have absolutely no bearing on flows of the Ottawa River. The Moses-Saunders Dam can allow for a higher outflow of waters from Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence River than the natural conditions before its construction, and the 2017 and 2019 flood peaks on Lake Ontario were lower than those that would have occurred under natural conditions (refer to IJC’s website at for more information).

The IJC has a tremendous amount of good information on their website, but unless you know what you are looking for, it is hard to navigate and you can spend a lot of time searching through reports to find specific information. The general public should have easy direct access to current issues such as the floods of 2017 and 2019. Having a “2017 Flood” button on the main webpage with links to related reports would be helpful, but illustrations on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system or how the operation of their structures impacted water levels in 2017 should be pulled out of the reports and be prominent on the “2017 Flood” page. For example, Figures 2-1 and 2-2 of the IJC report titled: “Summary of 2017 Great Lakes Basin Conditions and Water Level Impacts to Support Ongoing Regulation Plan Evaluation,” November 13, 2018 (Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee Summary of 2017 Great Lakes Basin Conditions and Water Level Impacts to Support Ongoing Regulation Plan Evaluation PDF), are excellent illustrations of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River system. Figure 2.6 of the IJC report titled: “Observed Conditions and Regulated Outflows in 2017,” May 25, 2018 (Observed conditions regulated outflows in 2017) is an excellent illustration of the water surface profile of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River showing the effects that a release of water needed to achieve a one centimetre drop over a period of one week on Lake Ontario would have on water levels at critical areas of the St. Lawrence River, such as Montreal. There are probably many other illustrations that could be pulled from the reports and prominently displayed.

7.2 Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board

Likewise, with the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board (ORRPB), the general public and stakeholder groups misunderstand how water control structures on the Ottawa River are operated and what effect the operation of those structures has during extreme floods. A common complaint was that the information was too technical for the general public. As a result of the flooding damages in 2017 and 2019, residents questioned whether more can be done to better plan for and reduce the impacts of flooding in the future.

On July 11, 2019, the Hon. John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, sent a letter to his provincial and federal counterparts requesting their support in conducting an independent review of how the Ottawa River system is managed. The letter requested each counterpart to name an individual within their respective ministries that the MNRF could work with to set out the specific details of the review.

The ORRPB suggested that it may be time to review the actual 1983 Agreement that governs the Board and their roles and responsibilities to determine if the conclusions from 1980 still hold true almost 40 years later. The review could repeat the original process of studying the coordination between generation station operators and exploring reservoir expansion and related costs.

Hydrological forecasts should include better information about water levels all along the Ottawa River. People rarely care about flows, but they want to know what level the river will rise to, so they can prepare accordingly. Most of the information is right at or near a hydro structure, but there are a lot of houses and cottages along the river in between the gauges. Since this is a complicated river, it is recognised that it is difficult to interpolate between two gauges (it’s not a straight-line relationship).

7.3 Ontario Power Generation

As with the above two agencies, the general public and stakeholder groups do not understand how the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) stations work and what effect the operation of those power generating structures has during extreme floods. I included considerable discussion and explanation on the issues that were raised by stakeholders about the Ottawa River in Section 4.1.

Further to that, I must emphasize that while Ontario has many different waterpower producers operating throughout the province, my focus on OPG has been in relation to their operations on the Ottawa River, as they are the only Ontario-based waterpower provider operating on the Ottawa River proper. The recommendations below may also be relevant to other waterpower producers operating throughout Ontario.

Regarding Section 4.1.5, Explanation of Conditions at Des Joachims and the Dry Section at Deux-Rivieres, OPG had originally provided me with two diagrams showing operating levels during normal and high flow conditions to try and illustrate the situation. However, I did not include the diagrams in this report, as I think they would confuse the reader. What would greatly assist the reader would be additional illustrations of how the river goes through the changes from normal to high and back to normal conditions.

I also discussed the issues in the upper Ottawa River watershed (Mattawa) in Section 4.2 and recommended a more collaborative approach with better communication in Section, which OPG supports.

OPG has made several recommendations to me on other matters and most are covered in other sections of this report.

One operational recommendation that OPG has raised that could reduce flooding impact would be a change of the reservoir refill date in the Water Management Plans for each power dam. It is suggested that the refill date be flexible depending on the watershed conditions, such as size and speed of the freshet in the region. Water Management Plans were not designed to manage floods. Balancing the constraints of the plan with the potential for flooding can sometimes be challenging. The Victoria Day refill constraints have been set primarily for recreational purposes; however, they cause water management staff to make a trade-off between flood resilience and recreation. The refill date should not be based on a set trigger (or series of potential triggers), but allowed to be based on the unique conditions of each given year.