Written by MJ Proulx, Director, Watershed Network
On November 30, we convened a gathering of the Ottawa River Watershed Network, where more than 50 participants spent half a day exploring how to improve data sharing and enhance collaboration efforts. Representatives from Conservation Authorities, Organismes de bassin versant, Indigenous communities, more than a dozen NGOs, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the National Capital Commission (NCC), hydro producers, citizens’ groups, academia, as well as elected officials from Ottawa, Gatineau, and La Pêche made the most of a packed agenda.
The afternoon began with some enlightened words of wisdom about the significance of traditional water knowledge from Verna McGregor, one of several Algonquin participants. We then briefly reviewed ECCC’s recent public consultations and draft report on the values, health, and potential governance approaches in the Ottawa River Watershed. The next steps in this process will unfold over the winter months and we look to ECCC to keep us all informed.
We also introduced the Info-Hub, a new online platform designed to feature the different organizations that are active in the watershed, facilitate the sharing of information and resources, and highlight collaborative projects that bring together different partners. Called Réseau Collaboration Network, this bilingual portal is created and managed by Ottawa Riverkeeper. As we develop and grow the user-driven platform, we continue to seek feedback and will do our best to adapt it to evolving needs. The success of the new tool will depend on the level of engagement from all groups. We were delighted to see that participants support this initiative.
Together, we also seized the opportunity to showcase some exciting projects led by Energy Ottawa, le Conseil des bassins versants des Mille-Îles (COBAMIL), Ontario Power Generation, Freshwater Partners of Renfrew County, Blue Fish Canada, the NCC, and Swim Drink Fish Canada. This was just a sample of the myriad exciting examples of successful collaboration within our watershed.
Finally, we presented an update on the ongoing Watershed Health Assessment. With funding support from ECCC, Ville de Gatineau, and Fondation Écho, we are conducting research on indicators of the ecological health of the Ottawa River Watershed. Looking at quantitative data and trends over time, these indicators will help to monitor changes in river health and inform decisions and policies. To accelerate progress on the assessment, participants were invited to send their input and share relevant data sources.
The gathering was an excellent opportunity for these allies of the watershed to reconnect, meet new players, discuss issues of common concern, and look to the future. Based on everyone’s eagerness to network and collaborate, the future of our watershed looks very bright!