Monday, June 28, 2010

St.Lawrence Sinks to New Lows....or dragging your bottom distinct possibility

                MONTREAL - As part of a bi-national strategy to manage this summer's historically low water levels in the St. Lawrence, Canadian and United States officials have agreed to release more water from Lake Ontario through the dam in Cornwall.

Hundreds of thousands of cubic feet per second is already being drawn from Lake Ontario and the flow through the Cornwall dam could be more than doubled by the end of summer, Peter Yeomans said Sunday.

"The past month we've been managing this precious resource on a day-to-day basis," said Yeomans, a Canadian member of the International St. Lawrence River Board of Control, the Canada-U.S. agency that manages water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence.

But given that Lake Ontario's shoreline recedes up to nine metres with each additional centimetre the lake's water level is reduced, Yeomans quickly added, the decision is not without risks and environmental costs.

Lake Ontario "could be drawn down by up to four centimetres" and the lake's level already has been reduced by 1.4 centimetres to deal with the lower water levels that have resulted from this winter's lighter-than-usual snowfall, he said.

Yeomans made the comments as Canadian government officials stepped up their campaign to warn recreational boaters and mariners of the increased risk of running aground in the St. Lawrence and to update navigational charts before leaving the harbour.

This weekend, the water level in Lac St. Louis as measured at a federal government gauging station at the foot of Cartier Ave. in Pointe Claire stood at 20.6 metres above sea level, a dangerously low level and the point at which a one-centimetre change in the water level signals an alert for the seaway.

No matter how familiar a recreational boater may be with the St. Lawrence, this summer it is necessary to check the latest data available on water levels and to update the marine charts that are used for navigation, said Nathalie Letendre, a spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard's operations in Quebec.

Letendre said the federal government website is updated daily with data collected by the Canadian Hydrographic Service at gauging stations along the St. Lawrence.

But there's nothing like hearing a first-hand account from a fellow boater who has damaged his keel or hit rocks and taken out a motor to get even the most seasoned recreational boater to double-check his marine charts.

Vaclav Soucek, the harbour manager at the Pointe Claire Yacht Club, said some members with deeper keels have been unable to get out and other members have hit rocks and sandy shoals while on the water.

"We're telling people to not cut corners and to stay dead centre in the channels," Soucek said.

But Jin Frati, the sailing master at the Beaconsfield Yacht Club, said while water levels are also the talk at his club, they haven't stopped people from sailing. "You just need to be careful," he said.

Meanwhile, Yeomans said, Canadian and U.S. officials are evaluating the impact of this summer's low water levels and the impact of any change on a wide range of commercial and environmental interests.

Increased summer demands on hydroelectric power generated at station, such as that of Hydro-Québec's substation on the St. Lawrence at Beauharnois, have to be taken into consideration.

Municipalities may also face increased costs for water filtration as the lower water levels have led to more turbidity and sediment in the St. Lawrence waters. Water levels in wells may be affected. Lake Ontario's commercial fishery could potentially suffer, as could wetland habitats, shorelines and endangered species.

Then, there's the dry, hot weather forecast for the summer that will not help water levels.

"We're talking headaches," said Yeomans, a Montrealer whom many would remember as the former mayor of Dorval. "The premise is no one interest should bear the brunt of the impact."

                                                  Have Fun and Remember Verdun


Les F said...

Giving Rise to the need to 'check your charts' .......and you should do this regardless of where or which waters you traverse, levels ,sandbars, rocks, & if your on the ocean,then tides,are really important things to pay attention to.... Have a safe summer,think ahead. HF&RV

Les F said...

info from the Govt' site: as of June 3 rd
Notice of Public Interest - Low Water Levels in the St. Lawrence: Pleasure Craft Operators and Mariners Are Urged to Use Caution June 3 , 2010


Mont-Joli, (Québec) – Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the Canadian Hydrographic Service and the Canadian Coast Guard, confirm that water levels in the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Sorel are unusually low for this time of year and that these conditions may pose risks to navigation.

According to the available data, water levels will remain relatively stable or could diminish slightly. However, consistent rainfall over the Great Lakes and Ottawa River watersheds could change the forecast and restore the situation to normal.

Low water levels affect both pleasure craft operators and mariners and can pose risks to the safety of individuals. Safe navigation begins with preparation and consultation of the available up-to-date data.

Before you set out, it is recommended that you take the following steps:

Obtain information on water levels by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-775-0790 or from the Internet at:

Keep up-to-date charts onboard the vessel and consult them. For a list of chart dealers, visit:

Update your charts from the information provided in the notices to shipping and notices to mariners available at:

Check water levels in the area where you are navigating to make daily corrections to the depths indicated on the charts. Negative water levels indicate that the available water column is reduced relative to what is indicated on the chart. For example, if the chart indicates a depth of 5 metres, and a water level of minus 20 centimetres is observed, this means that a depth of 4.80 metres of water is available for navigation.

Take into account that low water levels affect the position of buoys. In such conditions, buoys may not be sufficient for accurate identification of a navigation zone or a channel that is safe for certain vessels.

Do not venture into unfamiliar areas without obtaining information about obstacles and obstructions.

Reduce your vessel’s speed where the current permits.

Know the draft of your vessel.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada updates daily the water level information to maintain safe and accessible waterways.