As anger and resentment grow over the perceived mismanagement of Ottawa River levels this spring, one city councillor is calling for an independent review of dam operations — and a seat at the table.
Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, whose West Carleton-March ward was badly affected by flooding for the second time in two years, wants a review of how Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and other organizations determine flow levels at key dams.
El-Chantiry is also angry many local officials aren’t being included in meetings organized by a provincial task force struck to look into how to prepare for and respond to future flooding.
“There’s no transparency here,” El-Chantiry complained “Guess who benefits from high water and dam control? OPG. I’m going to make a stink about it.”
El-Chantiry said neither he nor Pierre Poirier, the city’s manager of security and emergency management, has been asked to attend a closed-door meeting planned for Friday. Nor have news outlets including CBC been informed of the meeting.
“Why is the media and the officials and the public kicked out or not invited to those meetings?” El-Chantiry demanded.
4K sign petition
Some 4,000 people have signed a Facebook petition calling for an independent public inquiry into possible dam mismanagement.
A spokesperson for Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski did not explain why the task force is meeting in private, and said the public is welcome to offer input through a provincial website.
I would like to see that we have a representative that has our interest in mind.
– Gerry Blyth, Constance Bay resident
In Constance Bay, where water still covers some roads and many homes remain surrounded by sandbags, there was frustration and suspicion Tuesday.
“I would like to see that we have a representative that has our interest in mind,” said Gerry Blyth, 70, whose home was flooded in 2017 and again this spring.
Blyth worried a hastily arranged meeting leaves officials who might attend too little time to research and prepare educated questions.
Blyth’s neighbour, John Singleton, 76, said “nothing productive” would be gained by inviting angry property owners to a task force meeting, but said El-Chantiry, their elected representative, should be there.
“I can’t see them having a meeting without him there,” Singleton said.
He’s one of many residents suspicious the dams weren’t properly managed, and that may have made flooding worse in certain areas.
“One side of the dam is dry — people are walking on the bed of the Ottawa River — and on the other side, 500 feet away, people are losing their homes,” Singleton said. “That’s not the way to run anything.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the mayor had been invited earlier in the day to attend the task force meeting on Friday, and plans to be there.