Ottawa

Lifting of boating ban 'bittersweet,' companies say

Boating businesses in the region say they're thankful Transport Canada has lifted restrictions along most of the Ottawa River, but some aren't certain their season can be salvaged.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau lifted boating restrictions along most of Ottawa River

Boats can return to the Ottawa River after having been docked for weeks due to the flood waters. (Pierre-Paul Couture/CBC)

Boating businesses in the region say they're thankful Transport Canada has lifted restrictions along most of the Ottawa River, but some aren't certain their season can be salvaged.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau issued an interim order April 27 banning water traffic along the Ottawa River from the capital to the Carillon dam. The ban was later expanded to Lake of Two Mountains near Montreal, then north of Mattawa, Ont., before the May long weekend

On Thursday, Garneau announced the ban, which was meant to prevent boats from creating wakes that washed over sandbag walls, lifted along most of the river.

Rafting companies have been among those pushing for Transport Canada to lift the ban in recent weeks because it was preventing them from running their businesses. 

'Bittersweet'

Dave Stibbe, owner of Ottawa City Rafting, called the lifting of the ban "bittersweet."

"We have lost a significant amount of June bookings that are not recoverable because we've had no knowledge of [when the ban would be lifted]. But at least we can make plans now, which is the most important," he said.

Stibbe said he's not expecting the tourism season pick up until July — a month later than normal — because people still have safety concerns.

These rafting boats will be back on the water this weekend after sitting unused for weeks. (Carmen Klassen/CBC)

"We have to overcome that hurdle now, to get people back," he said.

Stibbe said the company expects to hire back just two of the six summer students it laid of earlier this month.

Meanwhile Ottawa Boat Cruise, which runs excursions on the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal, has already moved one of its boats from Rockland, Ont., to the canal, and plans to have all four in operation by Wednesday.

Boaters faced a $5,000 fine for violating Transport Canada's ban. The ban applied to all types of boats, from canoes to large cruise boats. (CBC)

"It's great news obviously," said Robert Taillefer, the company's owner. "To have cancelled operations for the last month, it's been hard on the morale of all the staff."

He said the company suffered a "considerable" financial hit by having to cancel cruises and events such as high school proms, but still expects to finish the season in the black and keep all 100 of full- and part-time staff employed.

The executive director of the Ottawa Rowing Club said she's also relieved the restrictions have been lifted.

"It's one less obstacle that we have to think about," Melissa McKenzie said. "It meant that we couldn't send our crews out and we couldn't have accompanying coach boats or motorboats alongside our crews, which is a requirement for us."

Floodwaters swelled to the doors of the Ottawa Rowing Club's two boat houses earlier this spring and still haven't fully receded, significantly delaying the rowing season. (Darren Major/CBC)

The club had to cancel its high school rowing season because of the flooding. 

The ban remains in place along an approximately 50-kilometre stretch of the river east of the capital from Wendover, Ont., to Hawkesbury, Ont.

With files from Kimberley Molina

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