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  Who benefits from heritage designation on Rideau River?

The Editor:

Our federal government's Canadian Heritage River system for identifying and protecting great Canadian navigable rivers for tourism and recreation makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

"The dream is to ensure that rivers in Canada flow into the future, pure and unfettered as they have since the melting of the vast Pleistocene ice sheets." So what is the fuss about the Rideau?

The locks, dams and blockhouses on the Rideau Canal (some might say, an historic economic and environmental misadventure which plundered a natural river system using loads of tax dollars and indentured labourers) have already been declared to be of national historic significance!

But it is not yet declared an historic canal such as the Trent-Severn waterway where the channels and natural waterways are also included.

So the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority could have opted to have the Rideau Canal declared a National Heritage Canal under Parks Canada Canals Policy to help better market this waterway for tourism and recreation.

Why then is our local conservation authority so anxious to obtain Canadian Heritage River status from Parks Canada and at the same time ignoring exploiting other valid options? New funding and a bigger mandate seem to be the chief answer. Funding and mandate to do an entire Rideau/Cataraqui WATERSHED PLAN for Official Plan purposes under Ontario's Planning Act, one which obviously will need to be carefully integrated with Parks Canada's Rideau Canal 1996 Management Plan, as well as that of RMOC. This is the prized outcome! Such a watershed plan, (owned by the conservation authority) is required within three years for designation under Parks Canada's CHRS program.

The sole owners of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority are the municipal governments in the Rideau watershed, and they were not consulted (in fact they seldom are on most policy matters) about the merit of collaborating with Parks Canada, and instead were each the subject of an intensive communication plan managed by RVCA staff. In the past the province supported these municipally-owned conservation authorities with grant funding, With provincial "down loading" and restructuring, funding for an authority now is a function of municipal levies, or through circuitous initiatives targeting corporate or federal takers.

As of January 1, 1999, Parks Canada became Parks Canada Agency and is no longer under departmental management and controls. As an agency it is much freer to manage its own resources in terms of people, assets, and finances, as well as to enter into contracts and partnership agreements with other provincial or private sector entities. To what extent would property owners along the Rideau be affected if for some reason it was decided to let the Rideau run as a natural river without benefit of dams to elevate water levels. A fund raiser for sure! Or is it perhaps that political patronage sometimes ascribed to agencies is being diminished or refurbished? An agency must have some merit: even RVCA now is claiming to be "Rideau Valley's environmental agency".

And the bottom line? A very costly bureaucratic program to maintain and enhance property values in the countryside -- something municipal government could easily and cheaply do for itself!

Bob Woolham

RR 2

North Augusta, Ont.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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