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The Rideau Lakes Need your Help

    I am writing on behalf of the Rideau Lakes Environmental Foundation (RLEF), a non-profit foundation working with our local lake associations, Big Rideau Lake Association and Upper Rideau Lake Association since 1991. We are a charity registered with the Canada Revenue Agency and issue tax receipts for donations.

    For the past few years, we have been funding scientific research to ensure that we maintain and improve the water quality that is essential to the continued enjoyment of our lakes. We are asking for your support to assemble a status report on the health of the Rideau Lakes which is an essential tool to address the different risks that we encounter, such as:

    • Densification of development;
    • Drainage of contaminants from municipal and agricultural sources;
    • Deteriorating or inadequate septic systems;
    • Careless construction practices, both residential and infrastructure.
    A shallow cove on the north shore of Newboro Lake in 2020: an example of problematic drainage.

    We are asking each recipient to donate $100. The easiest way is to donate online ( The tax receipt is provided promptly by Canada Helps and there is a record kept that you can rely on at tax time. Or you can mail your cheque made payable to RLEF to the address on our letterhead, PO Box 93 Portland, ON, K0G 1V0.

    What RLEF does

    RLEF has been funding scientific research into water quality and other lake issues beginning in 2017. We sponsored three projects by researchers from Queen’s University and Carleton University in 2020 and three further projects in 2021, including work on algae growth and the impact on fish populations of a COVID-induced decrease of sport fishing. The annual research budget for the last two years was $15,000.

    Key Activities for 2022

    We noted last year that a redevelopment of the Waterways campground/trailer park in Hudson’s Bay on Big Rideau had the potential to create a major and permanent expansion on a small corner of the lake. An Interim Control By-Law concerning tourist campgrounds was hastily imposed in early 2021 by the Township of Rideau Lakes (TRL). RLEF Board members participated, along with a number of Lake Associations, in a TRL process to revise the Official Plan. The updated tourist campground report from TRL’s consultants, Fotenn Planning, is on the TRL website. We are waiting for the next shoe to drop from the Waterways developers, Summerhill Resorts.

    We worked over the summer with municipal and Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) staff on a research project to assess contaminant pathways to the lakes which was funded by the Township, with a $50,000 budget. The Sustainable Drainage project is described on the RVCA website. The final RVCA report is expected shortly. RLEF Board members participated in reviewing reports and in bi-weekly ZOOM updates.

    The recent Ontario Bill 23 is aimed at facilitating municipal densification and removes a number of planning controls to try to speed up new housing. But Rideau Lakes has different issues from downtown Toronto or London. Water quality will suffer by adding density on lakefront development in areas without municipal sewers and water supply. By eliminating municipal access to environmental inputs from Conservation Authorities, Bill 23 is also likely to have a significant negative impact on lake planning for the smaller municipalities, like TRL, who rely on the Conservation Authorities for relevant expertise.

    Widening the Focus for 2023

    Our objective remains the protection of the lake environments and the water quality of the Rideau Lakes. But our focus has widened from lake science to include regional and municipal planning. Effective representation to the relevant public authorities requires meaningful and persuasive information about lake conditions. Our goal for 2022 is to assemble a status report on the health of the Rideau Lakes and the sources and extent of contamination that migrates into our bays and coves and becomes tangible on our lakes when the hot weather begins in July. Our work in the Sustainable Drainage project suggests that many answers can be found in existing literature and in extensive data already collected by the MOECP and relevant Conservation Authorities. Satellite photographs and scans are a new and important source of data.

    How to help

    RLEF Board members and members of the relevant Lake associations will continue to share in the work being done to follow planning issues. Specialist input will be required from environmental scientists and engineers who must be retained and paid to assemble the information for the lake quality status report that we are seeking and, where necessary, to challenge the proposals coming from municipal and Ontario provincial authorities. Donors were extremely generous in 2021 and we hope the recipient of this letter will understand the need.

    Yours truly,
    Michael Peterson
    RLEF Chair

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