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The Town of Smiths Falls has recently completed a number of Master Planning initiatives (as part of its Official Plan review process) including: the Downtown Revitalization and Waterfront Integration Master Plan (2013), the Downtown Community Improvement Plan (2013), the Smiths Falls Cultural Master Plan (2013) as well as the priorities of the 2011-2013 “Turning Point” Economic Development Action Plan, culminating in the release of the Smiths Falls 2034 Official Plan (2014).

The following list of “Challenges/Issues” and “Opportunities/Actions” contains some of those items (identified with an asterisk) taken from the Official Plan (with input from staff) and Master Planning documents that have implications for the sustainable use and management of the water resources of the Rideau River and Canal and lands adjacent to the waterfront in the Town of Smtihs Falls.

5. Challenges/Issues

Water Quality

  • Surface water quality data is unavailable for the Rideau River and Canal flowing through the Town of Smith Falls and the catchment at large

Shorelines/Headwaters

  • All riparian areas fall below the recommended 75 percent naturally vegetated riparian, 30 metre wide shoreline buffer target. In the Rideau-Smiths Falls catchment, the Rideau River and its tributaries contain 67 percent natural land cover (made up of wetland and woodland) and 33 percent non-natural land cover (comprised of crop and pastureland, rural/urban settlements and roads and railways). In the Town of Smiths Falls, the riparian buffer is made up of 53 percent non-natural land cover (comprised of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential areas, roads and railways and crop and pastureland) and 47 percent natural land cover (made up of wetland and woodland). Along the Rideau River and Canal in the Town, the shoreline buffer is made up of 71 percent non-natural land cover (commercial, institutional, residential areas and roads and railways) and 29 percent natural land cover (wetland and woodland)
  • Emerald ash borer poses a significant threat to the ecology of the catchment, given the prominence of ash trees along shorelines and in riparian and wetland areas. Many tree stands are predominantly ash and with their anticipated loss, it is unclear what will replace them and the overall effect of their collective demise on the physical and natural functions/values they provide for erosion, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat protection. Infestation is now evident in many parts of the catchment and treatment of trees is an expensive but viable option for specific specimens

Water Levels

  • Fluctuating water levels and high spring runoff turbidity in the Rideau River pose challenges to the Town of Smiths Falls municipal drinking water source. These variables are factors associated with seasonal damming and operation of the Poonamalie Dam by the Parks Canada Agency *

Development

  • Private land ownership on the north shore of the lower basin in the Town of Smiths Falls poses a challenge for a cohesive parkland loop either side of the Rideau Canal *
  • Reduced channel width of the Rideau Canal through Smiths Falls, particularly east of Parks Canada’s Combined Lock Station, limits the ability to develop marina or harbour infrastructure in close proximity to the Downtown *

Natural Hazards

  • Floodplain mapping for the Middle Rideau is over 35 years out of date for that reach of the Rideau River extending from Smiths Falls to Burritts Rapids

Land Cover/Natural Heritage System

  • Connection between natural heritage resources is an important ecological function which has yet to be analyzed or studied in Smiths Falls *
  • The catchment contains 567 ha of unevaluated wetland (occupying 12 percent of its total area) that provides many important social, hydrological, biological and ecological functions/services. Although not under imminent threat from development activity, they do remain vulnerable to drainage and land clearing activities in the absence of any regulatory and planning controls that would otherwise protect them