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Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada

The Water Management Program

Program Operations

Parks Canada’s role in the management of these watersheds is primarily to ensure water quantity, not water quality. Since the Waterway’s completion in 1920, the overall goal has been to provide for safe navigation along the waterway during the navigation season, while accommodating other uses. Under the British North America Act of 1867, the ownership of canals (along with their associated lands and water power rights) with lands and water power became the responsibility of the federal Crown. Similarly, under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the federal government maintains responsibility for safe navigation. However, after 175 years of settlement and development along the canal corridor, other water control priorities such as public safety, flood mitigation, community water supplies, water quality, the protection of natural resources, green power generation, and providing water for recreational activities have emerged and are factored into water management decision making.

Water management along the Trent-Severn Waterway is made possible through significant investment in infrastructure. In order to manage water levels through the canal, the TSW maintains:
  • dams that are opened and closed mechanically with either vertical or radial gates
  • dams that are adjusted by adding or removing a stoplog
  • dozens of smaller structures that cannot be adjusted like core walls and earthen dams
  • many kilometers of constructed canals
Glen Ross Dam (vertical lift mechanized gates) wide open
Figure 2. Glen Ross Dam (vertical lift mechanized gates) wide open
© Parks Canada

Fenelon Falls Dam (stoplogs with hydraulic log lifter) wide open
Figure 3. Fenelon Falls Dam (stoplogs with hydraulic log lifter) wide open
© Parks Canada

The Superintendent of the Trent-Severn Waterway is ultimately responsible for the water management program. However, the day-to-day operation is led by the Director of Canal Operations and coordinated by the Water Control Engineer from TSW headquarters in Peterborough. The Water Control Engineer communicates daily with Sector Managers and Supervisors working out of Waterway offices located in Campbellford, Peterborough, Kirkfield, and Haliburton. He is also in contact with other water control agencies such as the Ministry of Natural Resources, Conservation Authorities, Ontario Power Generation, and other public and privately owned hydroelectric generating stations.

Lake St. John Dam (stoplogs with winches) overtopping
Figure 4. Lake St. John Dam (stoplogs with winches) overtopping
© Parks Canada

An extensive hydrometric monitoring network ensures that Waterway staff have current data at all times (60 automated water level and flow stations, 11 rainfall stations and 100 manual sites). Near real-time data for 54 monitoring stations is now accessible to the public on the Parks Canada website by visiting our Water Levels page.

The Water Control Engineer makes decisions with respect to water levels and flows using a variety of data, in consultation with TSW Managers and Supervisors. Directions are then communicated to operations and maintenance staff, who make the necessary adjustments at more than 100 dams. The Sector Managers and Supervisors have the experience and authority to suggest modifications to the water management directions, which are then considered by the Water Control Engineer.

During the navigation season (mid-May to mid-October), lock staff perform water control operations as part of their daily routine. In the non-navigation season, operations staff and maintenance staff are both utilized for water management. Many staff are involved in water control operations during the high flow periods of the spring freshet.

Stoplog dam operation using manual winches and hydraulic log lifter
Figure 5. Stoplog dam operation using manual winches and hydraulic log lifter
© Parks Canada