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All about Whitewater

All about Whitewater
A Blog about River Preservation and the need to protect our free flowing whitewater resources

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Les mots dit: Insurance!

Risk Management
If you are reading this you probably are going to be one of the many recreational paddlers that will NOT be satisfied with the insurance situation and at this point there is little I can suggest.

The deal is this:

NO you are not indemnified for your club activities unless they fall within the narrow band of:sanctioned events for racing, instruction, exhibitions or demonstrations and your club has paid its membership fee and the required per member fee.

OPTIONAL: recreational coverage may cover you for OTHER recreational and sanctioned events but not the day to day interplay of running a club.

Memberclubs must pay a per member fee for liability insurance to Whitewater Ontario (WO), because WO must pay this fee to Canoe Ontario, CO, the provincial Sports body, through whom we receive our annual funding from the ministry of Health ( Promotions Branch).

Pearson and Dunn is our broker, and they deal with All Sports Insurance, an agency that sells for AVIVA insurance.

Worse still, The insurance only covers specifically registered and sanctioned events for racing, demonstrations, related training events and instruction (5:1 rule, students to instructors). This is VERY IMPORTANT for race organizers and organizers of demos and instruction, however.

There is the POSSIBILITY of getting recreational coverage for you or your club through Pearson and Dunn but ONLY if you go to them and say... we are WO members in good standing, and we want you to quote for us. I showed you, for a club your size they want, about $1000. This is for risk management purposes: naturally they want to minimize their own risk and exposure and this is how they do it.

Otherwise, you are on your own for insurance and frankly and in my opinion only, you DON"T NEED IT! You never needed it, and likely will never need it, unless you are running an event like the Kipawa River Rally or something similar or you organize, and run or volunteer in a race, demonstration, exibition or instructional event sanctioned by Whitewater Ontario.

This is not to say recreational event covered for Directors and officers and volunteers isn't important, its just for an individual its not likely necessary.

Recently I boated down the Grand Canyon. There were 18 of us. We agreed, and it was an official meeting between us and the trip leader, that nobody was going to SUE anybody, that everybody was on their own, and they while we would work cooperatively, we were NOT responsible for them and if they thought that, they should NOT be on that trip.

That was the extent of our risk management besides the usual safety gear and so forth required by the PARK SERVICE.

Your questions are extreme relevant to our members. The issues are complex because the fine print is complex on the policies. The brokers and insurance companies like it that way..

Background Information


BFL Ontario Inc.
1565 Carling Avenue, Suite 606
Ottawa, Ontario K1Z 8R1

Tel: (613) 722-7798
Watt: (888) 244-6709
Fax: (613) 722-7829

Rosemarie Dunn, R.I.B.O.
Account Manager, Special Lines
Pearson-Dunn Insurance & Financial Services Inc.
1-800-461-5087 ext 133
(905) 575-6809 ext 133
(905) 575-4250

Tanja K. Link R.I.B.(Ont.)
Account Executive, Special Lines
Pearson-Dunn Insurance Brokers
260 Nebo Rd.
Hamilton ON L8W 3K5

Insurance and Canoe Ontario numbers

As far as instruction, to be insured by WO, yes a certified instructor is required. A list of participants is sent to the WOoffice prior to the course. A $5 / day insurance fee is collected from non-members taking the course to cover them. The insurance is covered as long as the WO office person gets a list of participants prior and are charged $5 each for day insurance.

Cost for a course?
The clubs usually set their own fee. As a guide, a 2 day intro course at Minden is what, $175? Pariticipants fees for intro kayaking are $ 190.00 per adult and
$ 150.00 per junior. There is a discount for more than 1 junior in the same family. It costs $ 250.00 for head instructor, $200.00 for assistants and another $ 200.00 for meal preparation.
Ratios are supposed to be 5 to 1.

Club membership is $25 with each member paying $20 rather than than the individual membership of $30.

WO's basic insurance policy (sport injury and liability) covers instructional and competetive events. Specifically, it includes "games,
competitions or sports demonstrations run by you (Canoe Ontario and their affiliates -- one of which is whitewater ontario) or by
member clubs authorized by you including related training at sites of events and club premises".

Typically we've viewed pool sessions as instructional. If it were considered training, we'd need to have a written agreement with the club, as we don't have a policy per se. If it's instructionaly, Caroles outline is accurate.

If it's a purely recreational event, then it's not covered under the basic policy and would have to be covered under the
"recreational liability policy" that clubs can purchase from All-Sport, our insurer. The existing policy only covers events and related training. It
provides a very basic sport injury insurance and liability insurance for the individuals. It does not insure the officers of the club.
If you're required to include an additional insured e.g. UWO, then the basic plan wouldn't likely be enough and the additional
liability insurance would have to be purchased from the insurance vendor. You'd need to check this with All-sport as we can't act to interpret
the plan, as we're not insurance brokers.

The Pool Sessions are not run as instructional. We are a group of able paddlers getting together to rent a pool. Since the individual
who signs the contract for the rental becomes liable, we need to source insurance. We think the best route may be to form a club and
become affiliated with WO.

The annual premium and membership review...

This is about collecting the appropriate numbers for insurance purposes and for Canoe Ontario reporting and grant purposes.

First, our membership numbers are due to Pearson & Dunn by February 15th. This is non-negotiable. For sprint members I would suggest that we supply a list of clubs who have reported the appropriate numbers by this date to Pearson & Dunn, otherwise clubs are not insured for the upcoming season. Marathon and Whitewater, I'm not sure how your club system operates but it is imperative that the correct numbers get back to the insurance company. This exercise is to update the numbers that were supplied to Pearson & Dunn in the spring of 2006. P&D then recalculates our premium which was paid by Canoe Ontario. This exercise is to allow them to adjust those premiums to reflect our actual membership for last year (year ended September, 2006) and also to prepare a preliminary bill for the upcoming season. We need these premiums in place as soon as possible.

1. According to the Ministry of Health and Promotion guidelines there really shouldn't be a one day Canoe Ontario fee for any paddler. They are only interested in participants that are receiving an ongoing program from a club. So, paddlers that come one day for a dragonboat festival should not be subject to a Canoe Ontario fee, nor should paddlers that come for a try it out. Paddlers that come for regular dragon boat training would be subject to the fee, paddlers that participate in an intro program would also have to pay the fee. The Ontario ministry is looking for numbers that reflect ongoing participation, people that gain an ongoing health benefit (in my words) for purposes of their funding.

2. From my understanding of conversations with Pearson & Dunn, the classification of one day paddlers vs. multi day paddlers has been misunderstood (by me at least). P&D has clarified that a multi day paddler is really a member who participates throughout the season in a regularly scheduled program. For programs such as a week long intro, the one-day fee applies. For my club (RHCC) this will reduce our final insurance costs as we had previously considered participants in our five day intro programs to be multi day insurance.

Just to clarify, Clubs wanting the Recreational coverage do need to apply direct to P&D as in prior years. However the compilation of total club membership including splits for full time and day participant counts needs to be done by the Affiliate and then submitted to P&D. Clubs shpuld then their counts to the affiliate person responsible for tracking membership.

There have been no claims on the Canoe Ontario policy that I'm aware of. If the Exxon Valdez sinks, all the insurance policies go up in cost to cover the costs incurred by the insurer. It's got next to nothing to do with the inherent risk in the sport, unless there are claims made and then watch it skyrocket! Skiing pays some obscene amount for their insurance.

Whitewater Ontario has very extraordinary needs when it comes to insurance because members who paddle have traditionally "self insured" after considering risks associated with their sport.

Organizers of events on the other hand are my particular focus. Claims experience on this policy and the answer has been consistent: 'don't ask'. But I ask, because our members ask, and because the nature of risk in our sport has been used "against us". PWGSC specifically cited "high risk" and "extreme" in their bogus Environmental Assessment - which is the subject of a judicial review launched against the federal government by Les Amis supported widely by the whitewater paddling community. Risk Assessment and claims experience is relevant to maintaining access to rivers.

Members also see "availability of insurance" as a benefit of membership to whitewater ontario. My job in asking the questions is to better communicate those benefits to potential members. What are the risks, what are the coverages. We know that races, games and instruction strcovered but recreational use is also very important to us. Aggregately, premiums are being paid for coverage that may also be pooled.

I am not making any judgements here and I have no authorization to "shop around" but who else brokers against AVIVA's insurance, is All Sport the only broker in association with Pearson Dunn? Is All sport the best way to go or are there other alternatives for our special interest groups : organizers of recreational festivals like the Kipawa River Rally and the Gull fest. Coverage is needed for the organizers and volunteers which is not specifically covered in the request for "numbers".

We are looking for premium and loss information, and that's fine but it is a way too late in the process. If you get it, and I question whether they will provide same, what are you going to do with it ? There is very little leverage here at this late date for CO. There are very few providers of Sport Liability and Accident coverage in the CDN marketplace because of the high risk nature, volunteer base activities, and frankly a limited risk control environment. Too late to even attempt to shop the coverage if you can even find other providers.
If you want to shop the coverage you need to start immediately after the renewal of the current policy because it will take you a year to look around and see what's out there particularly in a volunteer organization.

On the nature of insurance in general:

It's a pooled risk. This is commercial liability coverage, and when the insurer Aviva assesses the premium they don't just look at Sport Canada claims which as far I know are minimal in frequency and severity, they look across their entire commercial liability exposure. The average home insurance premium in Canada is $500/year when's the last time your house burnt down, when's the last time you asked your insurer for premium and loss stats on their homeowners business. There are publications you can go to get stats and some stats are filed as a matter of public record if you really want them.

Getting the data P&D needs as a broker to deliver the quote and renewal. If you really want to go after this thing you'll need to make a commitment to start a process to shop around.But keep in mind the average premium we are talking about here I think is about $5 a person, at the end of the day you have to make a time vs savings judgement how much can you really save and is it worth your effort.

Needed: contact information as to the person we are suppose to deal with for Canoe Ontario's Insurance Policies. We need to obtain total membership #'s & day of event member #'s for this past year as well as provide renewal terms for the upcoming year. You were our main contact on the account, and looked after all of the above, now we understand that Peter Karwacki is now the new president of Whitewater - but he is not the contact person that we need to deal with directly on the entire account.

- These are recreational rates paid for by the Clubs directly and provide Directors and Officers Errors and Omissions coverage in addition to commercial liability and sport accident coverage, the Clubs get access to the coverage as a result of their association with the Affiliate and Canoe Ontario. - The rates are not out of line with previous premium charges

- Protocol dictates that the Affiliates have internal discussion on this matter before one of the Affiliates stakes out a position directly with the brokerage, you should convene a conference call with Joanne and Ian which is a party of three and represents all 3 affiliates including Canoe Ontario since Ian represents both Marathon and CO.

- Each affiliate before going to the meeting should consult their Club base and their Executive,so they can discuss input received and make informed decisions instead of the President of one affiliate taking a unilateral position, for example you should call Doug Corkery and get his input and folks should understand what alternatives are available, Doug runs Trips for the ORR and I am sure he would be concerned if this coverage was not available so give him a shout and discuss same

- Be careful in how you communicate with the Broker, this is a business their profits on this book of business are limited and they invest a lot of time corresponding with volunteers, don't jepoardize the relationship without a viable alternative

- Keep your communication professional and don't commit WO or CO to a position without full buyin
I think the problem starts right here:

$$$$$$$$$$* Clubs with membership to 100 = $850 $$$$$$$$$$$$$

All of our clubs are small.

* Clubs with 101 to 300 members = $1,000
* Clubs with 301 to 550 members = $1,375
* Clubs with 551 to 750 members = $1,750
* Clubs with 751 to 1,000 members = $2,125


At these rates our WO organization will opt out else they'd be working for the insurance company.

First we are in club redevelopment mode. We are in environmentalism mode, fund raising for environmentmal actions that are not charitable by
definition, preserving the environment, baking cookies to pay for a lawyer's fees is not on.

This is not workable, and to many, I dare say reprehensible not to put too kind a spin on it.

The idea is to make this number workable to encourage membership and involvement, to encourage buy in. You have your policy but your
enrolment could grow and be much more profitable. Would you rather have one club @ $850, or say 20 at $300?

Examine your claims history, you'll see that the losses simply aren't there, and there are ways of building in risk management caveats.
rec insurance...
I have attached an outline and blank application for the Recreational Canoe Policy that is available for Clubs under Canoe Ontario. We do already have a number of clubs insured under this program. If you would like to forward a list of all clubs under Whitewater, we would be happy to send this package to all. This will ensure all clubs have the information needed.
I will forward, once I have the copy for this term, the list of excluded activities. Thus it can also be sent with the package.

By now you have a premium calculated and issued to Canoe Ontario for its affilates. Further to our telephone conversation I need some clarification.
Many of our members are involved neither in demonstrations, instruction or racing. We do not want to have to pay insurance when these people are not part of the pool of people who are to be insured. When we report our numbers for membership am I correct in assuming that members who neither race, instruct, or demonstrate do not need to be reported?
This is quite important because I am researching the possibility that individuals who wish to join Whitewater Ontario, would automatically become members of the American Wildwater Affiliation and receive their journal.
So the membership aspect is quite important.
We do not want to discourage membership over premiums for members especially when there are far more paddlers out there, who currently do not belong to any club or association or belong to one uninvolved with Whitewater Ontairo simply because they feel the insurance premium is unnecessary since they neither race, instruct or demonstrate.

The policy covers:

Canoe Ontario and its 3 affiliates.
The affiliates are comprised of Clubs.
The Clubs are composed of members.

The coverage applies to the Club and all members of the Club including volunteers, coaches, drivers etc. Members cannot opt in or out of insurance coverage. To do so would present the following problems for the broker and insurer:

1) Requires that the definition of 'insured' under the policy be redefined and a totally different coverage be offered. You are no longer covering the organization in whole rather selected 'individual' members of a Club. Thus it becomes a personal liability insurance cover as opposed to a commercial 'organization' based liability cover. You cannot cover 1/2 or 1/4 of the Club either you cover the Club as represented by its full membership or you dont. If you dont cover the Club it becomes an individual personal policy.

2) The charter of WO among other things is to provide instruction , support the racing community, focus on river preservation, train instructors, provide river rescue training, recreational river running etc..Many of these activities require insurance support. In fact the Directors of CO , Marathon, WO, Sprint require E&0 coverage to carry out their mandate which is supported by the insurance. Clubs or individual members that are not interested in supporting these activities or dont want to pay for insurance should withdraw from WO or WO needs to change its mandate which is not being advocated here.

An insurance opt out is a non starter under the current construct of WO and the CO policy.

P.S. Personal umbrella liability policies generally provide excess cover only and require a basic underlying cover. Even in narrow circumstances involving existing auto and home policies, the cost is about $450 for an individual. This vs $5 for liability cover (requires no underlying coverage) including sport accident cover under the Aviva policy.

- These are recreational rates paid for by the Clubs directly and provide Directors and Officers Errors and Omissions coverage in addition to commercial liability and sport accident coverage, the Clubs get access to the coverage as a result of their association with the Affiliate and Canoe Ontario

- The rates are not out of line with previous premium charges

- Protocol dictates that the Affiliates have internal discussion on this matter before one of the Affiliates stakes out a position directly with the brokerage,

- Each affiliate before going to the meeting should consult their Club base and their Executive,so they can discuss input received and make informed decisions instead of the President of one affiliate taking a unilateral position

- Be careful in how you communicate with the Broker, this is a business their profits on this book of business are limited and they invest a lot of time corresponding with volunteers, don't jepoardize the relationship without a viable alternative

professional communication requires no commitment by WO or CO to a position without full buy in by all affiliates and Canoe Ontario.

cheap insurance (if any exists) to run trips ?

Want to run a couple of trips and want to make sure you are protected, but don't want to break the bank to run them. Do insurance companies often separate the insurance for the trips from insurance for the drive up?

The CRCA has affordable liability coverage for its instructors. It may be worth getting the cert as private insurance tends to be cost prohibitive especially if you only run few courses.

1Get your insurance through a broker.

2. Use a policy was greared towards an entire guiding operation. If a single owner/operator, there is no policy specifically for owner/operators, rather a full operation policy, but with insurance for only one boat, one guide, one truck, etc, etc.

3. The first year the policy might be $1200.00 for a full year, the second year it will rise to $1500.00. This was close to the average amongst insured Ontario guides ($800 - $2000 for new policies), although most guide outfits would add additional guides to the policy to split costs.

5. Some organizations offer limited insurance for their members, but check to see if the coverage is enough for your needs. The OFAH (Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters) offers a limited policy to all its members, but the liability wasn't enough ($100,000.00, s/ b $1,000,000.00).

You can be sued, even if your net worth is not very large. The liability system in Ontario is structured so that lawsuits result in the care of an injured party. If one of your clients is injured in such a way that they need monetary assistance for a length of time, and you are found to be responsible for that injury, then your wages could be garnered for as long as it takes to pay the value of that care.

Small operators - often operate without insurance, under the belief that "If I don't have anything, I can't be sued" - that simply isn't the case. Operating without insurance is definitly a calculated risk: just make sure you are calculating the risks correctly. Check with some of the established tripping companies and see who is offering liability insurance to tripping companies these days. It is normally limited to one or two companies.

If you do it on your own, expect to pay a fair bit. It is quite often calculated on a cost/client/day basis, but with a minimum amount up front. Last time I had to do it - which was a few years ago - the minimum was $1500 and the per person cost was $3.50/day/person.

If one of your clients is injured in such a way that they need monetary assistance for a length of time, and you are found to be responsible for that injury, then your wages could be garnered for as long as it takes to pay the value of that care.

It would become an issue if you decided to guide somebody who didn't have health insurance, a steady income, or investments. Lawyers are like electricity, they follow the path of least resistance to the money. I doubt if the courts would find someone responsible for care in a situation where the injured party is wealthier than the guide, and already has his/her own applicable insurance policies.

The main purpose of liabiliity coverage is to reimburse the lost income of bereaved spouses in the event something happens to their husbands. It doesn't have to be the fault of the guide..... If a wealthy client died of a heart attack on a tript his wife would send the (lawyers) after whomever she could, but no court is going to have one pay to support the 'lifestyle to which she has been accustomed'. If I had $1,000,000.00 liability coverage though, she'd be getting her new BMW.

It's important to know your clients, and factor that into your insurance decisions. If the trip is happening in Ontario you have to be set up with ORCA. To offer ORCA courses you need to be an ORCA Organizational Memeber, and an ORCA Instructor. You could then run your trip as a course and then be covered by the insurance plan which ORCA has in place. I think there are a probably a number of companies using this package.

I think it is a loop hole, as a trip should be a trip, but in the face of a $2000 insurance bill for 1 or 2 trips a year, it makes sense. It is the companies who are organizing 15 trips under the auspices of ORCA.

civil liability (different than legal liability)

If the courts find that you, as a guide, bear the responsibility for the disabling accident, then it is you, not the client (or the clients insurance) that has to pay for the care that is a result of that accident. Why should they pay, either personally or through their health insurance, for something that you did? It's a bit like saying "I rented a boat from a shop and then ruined it. The shop has more money than me, so they should pay for it."

If you decide to become a "guide" then you are, in essence, assuming a larger responsibility than a "participant": that's what a guide does.

If you have only acquired assets of <$50,000, and they are removed to recompense a victim you were guiding, then that is going to leave you in rough shape. The garnishing of wages in the absence of a deeper pocket is going to ensure that you serve as an example to others who believe that they, too, should engage in an activity that involves fiduciary duty (duty of care) to clients without adequate coverage.

As a canoe instructor, getting insurance to do trips with clients, after finding out the costs, I changed my plan to do only instruction to ensure I was covered. If the ensurer (acquired through ORCA, and I assume the same applies for the CRCA) discovers that the trip was a 'trip' masquerading as a 'course', then you will not be covered. I learned this while discussing the issue with ORCA executive.

You could do a lot of damage to our industry by having a mishap with an international or Canadian client on one of your trips if you are not adequately insured. If you doubt the importance of having insurance, let your clients know you are not covered and have no assets as they are getting into the boats. Watch their reaction.

The greater picture... the one of onerous and prohibitive policy makers stuffing their pockets, as well as those of the insurance company executives.

If you have more safety training than any other guide there is no reasonable coverage because no insurance company will take the time to evaluate a unique situation. You will be expected to pay the premium of a full scale, multi-boat operation. They figure 'not a big operation, not worth the risk'.

People who are qualified to guide trips and want to, but have to do so without insurance because the profit margins aren't there for the insurers. They have statistical risk/return figures calculated to generate the highest Sortino ratio (return to downside deviation). This is an industry that makes it prohibitive for organizations like the CRCA, ORCA, OFAH, and whomever to offer decent liability insurance to their members at less than a ridiculous cost, for the activities they are qualified to run.

Legal policy makers are trying to respect the individual's situation, but in the end, the policy is no more geared towards legal rights than it is towards protecting a multi-billion dollar industry.

If you are truly qualified to be guiding, and there is no applicable insurance policy designed for you in your particular situation, then you may choose to pass on insurance.

If you can demonstrate that you did everything in your power to ensure safety, and you can demonstrate that you took all the correct actions in an emergency outside of your control (ex. somebody is hit by lightning after you have gone to shore and sheltered under low brush or short trees at least 10m from the water), and you administer all the correct first aid, and you have all the necessary first aid gear if the courts make you shell out your salary for years to come because of a situation like that no insurance would have made a difference.

The threat of liability, and the associated costs of insurance, casts a huge shadow over the whole outdoor adventure industryBe responsible. Go out and do what you enjoy, and help other people learn to appreciate the outdoors. Life is too short, and there are too many people who need your help. If your serious about operating a business, incorporate it so that you're not personnally liable.

under W.O. (Whitewater Ontario)

Viable insurance or "protection" net to run my intro kayak courses (flatwater and basic whitewater) and day trips.
for courses (paying $5.00 a head for participants)

Those courses have to be "Whitewater Ontario" sanctioned events and meaning they would have to sponsored through a member club.

Organizations are routinely quoted in the range of $2,000 (from the same insurers that provide insurance to Whitewater Ontario) to get private coverage

As an owner/operator with 0-1 employee, in the event of a court case, the courts would 'pierce the corporate veil', and hold one PERSONALLY liable. It appears that there is a strong disincentive for us to do what we really love doing - introducing others to our respective sports. Incorporating will not protect you personally if it can be proved you were recklesss or negligent, and the fact that you"...have more safety training than any other guide merely increases your liability if things go wrong in that your superior knowledge increases the standard of care you should be exercising.

Assembling a group of people to go under a policy?

Chambers of commerce do the same thing- to extend the various types of insurance to their members, who are also owner/operators - set up a 'Outdoor Adventure Chamber of Commerce' . One requirement would have to be a comprehensive risk management plan for each member - which could be templated - which would be available to all members.

This organization has already done some work on this front it appears with not a huge amount of success (reducing insurance fees) but at least providing a voice.....

The insurance business appears to break a few backs along the way. Putting people out of business so they can make a profit with little-to-no-risk sort of flies in the face of what they are supposed to do - they were originally designed to insure risk! It is unfortunate that because of their poor decision-making skills (poor investment decisions) and one act of terrorism, we all end up paying. It doesn't appear (once again) to be the people at the front lines that are making these decisions, but people who we have no opportunity to contact and lobby directly. The most dangerous part of a well-run wilderness trip is still the drive up!

This article published in Australia...kind of helps explain the "big picture" with the Insurance industry in general. It appears that like many other industries, it is "cyclical" in nature.

At any rate, I also found this document on the website which lists insurance brokers that sell specifically to the Adventure Industry in Canada...

Minden Water Control

Minden, Gull River, Trent Severn Waterway issues

#1) Water Levels

-The only addition I would make is a point about obtaining releases for events. To purchase a release for Gull Fest, I was told that TSW only dealt with someone within WO to schedule those releases. Why is that? Can that change? What is the standard charge for obtaining releases?

Dam Releases are controlled by one person. There is good reason to establish a single contact to deal with Trent Severn on releases. One consistency and reliability in the person they are dealing with so that they know that person belongs to WO. Second any releases are scheduled on weekends and require overtime by Trent Severn personnel and the expense runs about $1000 per day as they open/close the Dam twice with two personnel. Third the releases need to be scheduled early in the year as Trent Severn sets out vacation for staff and is especially sensitive to calling up staff at last minute during the summer.

Most are satisfied for the most part with water levels over time. [we are concerned that possible changes might result in very poor water levels for whitewater navigation and race events etc.]
aware that levels have been more varied of late.
high water levels are not an issue unless flooding and damage will result [high and extremely high water levels are welcome thru this section and are not an issue unless they result in damage to Preserve riverbed]

#2) Information Exchange

we prefer more communication with TSW, both directions [benefits for TSW would be a more informed paddling community]
advance notice of dramatic variances when possible [the next 3 points would permit transfer of water level predictions which would also create rapport and build trust / credibility with the community]
access to gauge at Horseshoe Lake dam
access to overall Gull Watershed gauge info
see a need for more transparency with all watershed stakeholders as regards water levels

#3) Habitat Preservation

maintenance accommodation [ advance notice of low water periods would permit time to organize river clean up activity and maintenance of man made structures at Preserve
minimum flow in sensitive periods especially [protection of aquatic life as fishing is also popular above below and in the Preserve waters]

-If TSW agrees to provide more information related to water levels and management, how are we asking that they provide that info? Are we asking them to set something up on their website? There are several models for that, from the excellent resource of the Grand system, to the spotty info that OPG provides.We have always been able to get levels with a quick phone call.

-Same thing with advance notice of big changes: Who is it that gets that info? WO? What will they do with that info? The organisational time-line for doing riverbed work is so long that advance notice of low-water on the river would not affect that time-line.

-Again, same question about the gauge at the dam (which I don't think the water-control guys use: they still use the stick-gauge). Are we asking that the info go on-line? This would be cool, as there is no accurate on-line gauge for that stretch of river. The Norland gauge correlates, but only over long stretches of time.

All 3 points above need a 'who' and a 'how'. Is WO asking for access to the info? WO doesn't directly provide river levels, or links to any river level resources that I am aware of. If WO is asking, then I think there should be a plan for the dissemenation of the information. The only other option that I see is for the info to go on-line somewhere, either on a TSW website, or as part of the Environment Canada gauge pages.

- As opposed to asking for advance notice of dramatic changes - the time- line would likely be to short to allow for planning and getting the proper permissions - it would be interesting to ask if TSW would be willing to alter the levels when streambed work is scheduled. The last time we asked, there was not an overwhelmingly positive response.

Advance info on dramatic changes is what I think we would hope for. Not that all changes like this are predictable but many are. If high
water can be predicted or the end of high water this would be valuable to traveling paddlers. I realize predicting such things is witchcraft at
times but even a few days warning could divert people headed elsewhere into coming to the Gull or save them the trip. Either way TSW looks good in this kind of co-operation.

Releases to my knowledge are limited to 6 per year. They do seem to be grudgingly given out and are very valuable. I think $2600.00 for
an entire weekend and at minimum $800.00 for a single gate adjustment for day. WO has been able to secure a release for race events, I
think we (WO) have negotiated this ability many years ago and therefore WO is who TSW will deal with. I don't imagine they would feel compelled to deal with anyone else at this dam or any other.

I have no idea where TSW gathers level info from but it seems unlikely that they rely on a call made riverside by reading the stick. My
guess is the stick confirms info already imparted to the crew who comes out to make the change. The decision as to what the change will be must be made
somewhat in advance based on electronic gauge info. I'm guessing here. I just can't imagine with the technology we have these guy's are making seat
of the pants decisions on the fly. The stick likely serves to confirm and guide minor discretionary variations on the part of the crew in order to
meet a predetermined flow goal.

Whitewater Ontario is in the process of updating our website. The plan is to become more user friendly, more interactive with update ability
enhanced. We expect we'll soon be able to adjust and update our site easily and often. This is where I would like to see this info, if we can secure
it, posted and passed on to the public. I think in terms of acting as a liability buffer WO would be well suited to protect TSW from the concern that has
kept gauge and river info guarded by government organizations in the past. I don't know if our insurance policy is designed for this but I don't see how
passing on river levels is any worse than offering SRT courses that encourage participants to take very real risks. I expect we can bear the
liability concern very well.


WO has been the traditional procurer of releases and is best positioned to continue doing so. (internally WO needs to do a better job of
letting people know how this works) Regarding info exchange we simply point out how more info passed
on to the river users is good for all involved. It is good public relations and beneficial to interested parties. If out of that we can get
occasional or regular info about level variations and even better, gauge access, then great.
Like the release deal WO is probably best positioned to handle information to be released publicly. Is there another organization that
could / should do this?

To my mind the key to WO improving it's image and functionality with regular paddlers is this kind of thing. We wouldn't be doing this if WO hadn't made the complaint and request for a meeting.. WO is the conduit / catalyst for this to work. It'll be up to us individually to keep the ball in the air if we're lucky enough to have TSW pass it to us.

Ongoing communication is key for any public service sector, and TSW is no exception. Having access to a gauge via the web would go a long way in PR for these guys with the public. If W.O. can facilitate that through our group, that will in turn, go a long way for W.O.'s image with the general paddling population as well.

using the W.O. banner is our best avenue. W.O.'s official status as an organization will legitimize our plight with TSW... ...though I would like to consider our group slightly more specialized with the best interests of the Gull river- Gull River Keepers.

annual schedule for river maintenance (if this is a priority)
Do we have some dates in mind, that would work with TSW's flows? With this we will have a better chance at actually accomplishing some of the physical things we would like to do to the Gull. The Gull River, cared for, well maintained and much used resource among cottagers, paddlers, fishermen and locals, the odds will be in our favor when it comes to ongoing and future river-bed maintenance and upkeep.
Any work done on the riverbed has been "Maintenance and erosion control with an eye towards user's safety and preserving fish habitat". I don't think altering the river for better play etc... is even worth mentioning to TSW. Many of our goals to modify the river for play and paddling specific features could and should fall under the 'River Maintenance'

Mac Ellis

Mac was the supervisor of the dam-control team up here for many years - just retired a couple of years ago.RE: current conditions, as well as the availability of gauges.

Current conditions: Summed it up in one sentence "If you want water in the summer, it has to be held back now". Low snowpack, slow melt resulting in very little runoff, and a very dry spring (so far) have left TSW with very little water to work with.

Gauges: The electronic gauge on the dam is apparently quite inaccurate since it measures pool height, not flow. The pool height is affected almost as much by which gates are running as it is by the actual flow of water. For that reason, they rely on the gauge at the parking lot for more accurate readings. There are very few electronic gauges on the system, due to poor quality phone lines (any "noise" on a phone line gets read as information).

increased access to gauges - push for getting the gauge updated and then put on the Environment Canada Realtime gauge page: that page is very easy to access and the precedent already exists for public access to river conditions. It is a great example of several management bodies - OPG, TSW, the Grand River Conservation Authority, Environment Canada - cooperating to offer a public resource. As well, the issue of liability due to access to gauge info has already been dealt with on that page. Once the info is on that page, anyone - WO, BoatWerks... - can link to it.

Water flow on the Gull Site is still measured off the stick on river right below the parking lot, that measurement is converted through a table calculation. You can call Trent Severn at anytime and get a recent reading. I think what people want is an online measurement in cms, that would take some doing and expense as would require special gauge and phoneline/net connectivity. Perhaps the easiest way to handle would be for Trent Severn to post most recent measurements and the next least expensive way is for BoatWerks to learn how to take the measurement do the calculation and post it on the WO site in exchange for some commercial exposure.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Is the water low at MWWP - Hell yes!

Early photographs - how the MWWP was created

It was built from a rather bland riverbed by a small group of volunteers. They wished to provide a place that was reliable for training as well as recreational paddling. Their success has been beyond anyone’s expectations as the Gull has become the second most popular stretch of whitewater in Eastern Canada. It chalks up user day numbers beyond all but the Ottawa River. Whitewater Ontario was and is the foundation of that effort and continues to be regarded as the beneficiary and steward of this little gem of a river. We maintain the training center at no profit for paddlers and likeminded folks to develop whitewater related skills. We are proud of our accomplishments and take pleasure in sharing our resource.

Roger Parsons was the main man behind the Minden Wildwater
Preserve. It was his vision, and his hardwork that made the
whole project come into being.

Whitewater Ontario, then known as the Ontario Wildwater Affilation, used the Gull for races long before that.

It always was the top spot to compete for slalom. Roger saw the potential.

At this time, how he went about this, is a mystery that needs to be uncovered. He is still alive and well, living outside Barrie (by Horseshoe Valley). Go ahead, give him a call and show your appreciation!

Over the years individuals like the Kerkhoff family supported the MWWP financially through donations. Actual hands on work was more done by Mike Twitchin, Heinz Poenn and family, the Blight family, plus many more names we need to look up.

Dieter Poenn and Claudia Kerkhoff - both Canadian champs at the time, officially opened up the revised upper section of the Gull, by running the dam.

Roger Parsons - the heart and soul, inspiration and man of motion behind the MWWP - the foundation of whitewater paddling in Canada period is still going strong - - strong, active and still paddling (sea kayaks these days) his 80's he still has his MWWP scrapbook, site plan etc. at his place in Midhurst.
He likely will be a presenter at this years Gull River Festival, and we hope will - lead the evenings " Square Dance " - bringing back an old tradition, Roger is a caller (still active calling square dances in the Barrie area 3-4 times per week).

Roger passed on many archivial pieces of Ontario Paddling history to Dave Gillespie about 10 years ago, but still has a valuable scrap book which we plan to copy, mount and make a history exhibit for inside the building - ready for this years Gull Festival.

Roger had hoped that 25 years MWWP would be celebrated - that would have been 2004 but no-one around and active - knew about it.

Here is more on the preserve's history:

1969 - Canadian team members; Roger and Kathy (daughter) Parsons, Heinz Poenn, Keith Daniels, Hermann Kerckhoff ...and others were in desperate need of a whitewater training site, to prepare for the 1969 World Championships in Merano, Italy. They drove around Southern Ontario for 2 days (that year was a drought), when Roger suggested driving up to the Gull River. They arrived, it had water ! But, it was shallow in places, so felt some river work would make this an ideal slalom training site. Noticing a sign 'Land - for - Sale' on river left below the dam had them excited. 10 Cottage Lots were being sold all the way down the rapids shoreline by an American land-owner. Roger looked him up through the help of a local real-estate lady (whom he still bumps into in Minden), and asked if they could buy the top 3 lots to secure river access. Well the American then said - want you to take one or all 10. This meant raising $50,000.

Roger started writing letters to every paddler and organization to raise money. After 10 years of lobbying, getting pledge cards, collecting and in the end Roger raised $106,000 (mainly private $, and a small donation from the Cdn Nature Conservatory)

The municipality was not behind anything to do with paddlers. The reeve at that time was less than helpful but this all changed in 1979, when a new reeve was elected who was very keen, and spearheaded a lot of the support.

1979 - bought the land (10 Lots and a second piece behind for camping)

1980 - Opening of Site - big event with Reeve, other dignitaries and the whole paddling community. I remember this very well, as Dieter Poenn (Cdn mens champion) and Claudia Van wyk (Cdn womens champ) just returned from the World Championships, where they both placed 5th - best ever international placement by a Canadian, were asked to open up the 'river' by running the DAM. Well - it would be a first decent....and we were pretty scared, but keen at the same time. Man-made structures are unpredictable. Dieter ran it first (ha !) got a bit stuck in the hole, but Claudia managed to have a clean jump into river right eddy !

1983 - Building went up


The Gull has hosted two World Cup events, numerous Canadian Championships and many other events including Freestyle.

Running the dam at Minden was part of the course at a World Cup Slalom race hosted there by the Ontario Wild Water Affiliation decades ago. This was a significant international race and I am sure that the international racers (or the local ones for that matter) weren't directed to do something 'illegal' as part of this internationally sanctioned race.

It is technically illegal to run the dam at the Gull, or be within 50m upstream or downstream of it. Apparently - according to discussions I have had in the past with the OPP - this applies to all the dams on the Trent/Severn system. The law has been used to charge at least one paddler: Joe Langman was charged at Fenelon Falls. I don't know what happened in that case.

The OPP has used the law to chase boaters away from 2 paddling sites: Lock 19 in Peterborough and the dam between 12 mile lake and Mountain Lake (just north of the Gull, right next to hwy 35).

Hydro has nothing to do with the dam at the Gull. It is owned and maintained by the National Parks System as part of the Trent/Severn waterway.

Possibly a "special permit" was issued for world-cup races.

recognition for the hard work and dedication they showed to paddling, paddlers and the Gull, in addition to the folks already mentioned.
The McCall family particularly Jeff and Jim gave mightily of their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm.
They acted as volunteer coaches and mentors, organized training sessions at the Gull that they coached and used as work parties.
The Brownsea base boys from Peterborough were also key to the early Ontario and Gull river paddling and slalom scene.

My first trips to the Gull were in 1974. The lakefield paddlers would surf the standing waves on the river upstream of Peterborough and go to races on weekends to legitimize ourselves as an official school sport.
The Gull was the holy grail and this was before the falls were blasted and the river channelized. Racing from the falls down was high adventure back then.
In 1975 I saw Dieter Poenn run the falls and then surf what now would be called whitehorse, which seemed much more fun than running gates. His mom was always there judging gates and shaking her head when we would knock gates out of our way and Heinz try to give us coaching and instruction if we would take it.
Another family who gave greatly to paddling and the Gull.
My memories of Hermann appear to be different.
It was Roger Parsons though, who took hold of the vision and cracked the whip.
We wouldn't have the Gull in anywhere near its form if not for him.

Thanks Roger

River protection and access protections unfortunately also bring regulation with them. Regulation by beurocrats with little or no understanding or appreciation for us or what we do. See the situation on the upper chattoooga where boat ing is outlawed but fishing, hiking, camping are good to go.

The Problem with minden

The essential problem with Minden

It is a high value asset. The property is probably close a million dollars in value. WO owns 17 acres. In addition, shoreline land is leased from Orillia Light and Power for a nominal fee to allow for river access.

The dam is a water controlled structure owned and operated by Parks Canada as part of the Trent severn waterway.

It is obviously of great interest to paddlers. Above Horseshoe falls is technical class III-IV. Below class two-three. All dependent on water levels.

At the dam hydraulic holes develop at the sluice which can hold a boat but with new technology in boats often are side surfed by skilled paddlers.

The first drop below the dam contains an "augsberg" eddy. It has been said that a paddler who can navigate the upper section: dam to below horseshow falls, hitting every eddy, can probably navigate almost anything else. You be the judge.

The limestone rock at Minden is encrusted with mica and is razor sharp: swimmer unfriendly.

At one time it was felt that Voyageur island, midstream below the dam was in danger of eroding and causing deterioration of the navigability of the river.

Canadian Rivers

Canadian Rivers
I speak for river users too!

The Queen is not amused!

The Queen is not amused!

The Damned Dam - 2005 -

The Damned Dam - 2005 -
22nd Annual Kipaw Rally has modest turnout. - 23rd does better

The Ashlu river: it could happen to you

The Ashlu river: it could happen to you

Whitewater Ontario

Whitewater Ontario
Working Hard to Protect Canada's Paddling Resources

Whitewater Ontario - Mission Statement

It is Whitewater Ontario’s mission to support the whitewater paddling community through the promotion, development and growth of the sport in its various disciplines. We accomplish this through the development of events, resources, clubs, and programs for personal and athletic development, regardless of skill level or focus, to ensure a high standard of safety and competency; We advocate safe and environmentally responsible access and use of Ontario’s rivers. Whitewater Ontario is the sport governing body in the province, and represents provincial interests within the national body Whitewater Canada and the Canadian Canoe Association

Kipawa, Tabaret, and Opemican

Kipawa, Tabaret, and Opemican
If Hydro Quebec is not actively pursuing Tabaret what is that bite out of Opemican for?

Kipawa Dam: After

Kipawa Dam: After
Laniel Dam at 2006 Rally

Where is the Kipawa

Where is the Kipawa
Kipawa flows into lake Temiskamingue, running from Kipawa Lake, under hwy 101 in Quebec

Kipawa Dam

Kipawa Dam
laniel dam at 2004 River Rally

Tabaret is a Bad Idea

About the Kipawa

The best thing paddlers can do to help the cause of the Kipawa:

1. attend the rally and bring others including non paddlers to attend and buy beer and have fun

2. write your MP /MNA and raise the issue and post your objections -1 letter = 200 who didn't write

3. Write Thierry Vandal the CEO of Hydro Quebec strongly opposing the 132 MW standard decrying the use of "diversion" as the most environmentally inappropriate method of power production

4. Write Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec protesting that either the algonquin or the tabaret project will eliminate all other values on the Kipawa River by turning it into a dry gulch.

5. See if you can get other allied groups interested by showing your own interest, ie the Sierra Defense Fund, Earthwild, MEC, and so on.

6. Demand further consultation

7. Currently we are at the point where we need to sway public opinion and raise awareness.

However, if all else fails, don't get mad, simply disrupt, foment, and protest . The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Have you read Edward Abbey?

Important Addresses
CEO,Hydro Québec, 75 boul René Levesque, Montreal, P.Q., H2Z

Tabaret is a Bad Idea (Part Two)

Les Amis de la Riviere Kipawa is poised to use an application to the Federal Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus to ensure the Minster does what he is supposed to do, protect the public's right to navigate the water control structure at Laniel, Quebec using the Navigable Waters Protection Act. (see

In the now gutted Navigable Waters Protection Act lay the means by which the Minister of Transport could keep the public right of passage down our great Canadian Heritage, our rivers and streams which are threatened especially by resource corporations and power brokers such as Hydro Quebec.

These powerful entities continue to petition that 'this' river or 'that' stream is not navigable and therefore not protectable.
I don't say that dams and bridges should not be built, only that if they are, historical navigation rights should be considered and preserved by making reasonable accommodations for recreational boaters.

It is the Minister of Transport, in exercising the right to allow or disallow work on or over a navigable waterway is what keeps boats and recreational boaters plying our waterways.

To many recent cases launched in the Federal Court concerning the Navigable Waters Protection Act, most recently the case of the Humber Environment Group of Cornerbrook Newfoundland versus the Cornerbrook Pulp and Paper Company indicates that the important oversight is not being faithfully performed. Have we really come to the point now where we must say "such and such a stream is one foot deep, possessing so many cubic feet per second flow and so on?" The answer to this is... YES!

The honourable Mr. Justice John A. O'Keefe, ruled that it had not been shown that the river was navigable. How convenient was that to the Minister? But either the Minister of Transport acts to protect our rivers and streams as a public right or he does not and that means rivers and streams currently enjoyed by kayakers and canoists.

Enough of the cheating, and double-talk. Canadians! our rivers and streams are our own, lets urge the Minister of Transport and the our government to protect them.

Peter Karwacki

Tabaret is a Bad Idea (Part Three)

10 Reasons WhyTabaret is a Bad Idea1) Tabaret is too big. The station is designed to useevery drop of water available in the Kipawawatershed, but will run at only 44 percent capacity.We believe the Tabaret station is designed to usewater diverted from the Dumoine River into theKipawa watershed in the future. 2) The Tabaret project will eliminate the aquaticecosystem of the Kipawa River.The Tabaret project plan involves the diversion of a16-km section of the Kipawa River from its naturalstreambed into a new man-made outflow from LakeKipawa. 3) Tabaret will leave a large industrial footprint on thelandscape that will impact existing tourismoperations and eliminate future tourism potential. 4) The Tabaret project is an aggressive single-purposedevelopment, designed to maximize powergeneration at the expense of all other uses. 5) River-diversion, such as the Tabaret project, takinglarge amounts of water out of a river’s naturalstreambed and moving it to another place, is verydestructive to the natural environment. 6) The Kipawa River has been designated a protectedgreenspace in the region with severe limitations ondevelopment. This designation recognizes theecological, historical and natural heritage value ofthe river and the importance of protecting it.Tabaret will eliminate that value. 7) If necessary, there are other, smarter and morereasonable options for producing hydro power onthe Kipawa watershed. It is possible to build a lowimpactgenerating station on the Kipawa river, andmanage it as a “run-of-the-river” station, makinguse of natural flows while maintaining other values,with minimal impact on the environment. 8) The Kipawa watershed is a rich natural resource forthe Temiscaming Region, resonably close to largeurban areas, with huge untapped potential fortourism and recreation development in the future.Tabaret will severely reduce this potential. 9) Tabaret provides zero long-term economic benefitfor the region through employment. The plan is forthe station to be completely automated andremotely operated. 10) The Kipawa River is 12,000 years old. The riverwas here thousands of years before any peoplecame to the region. The Tabaret project will change all that.

Problems on a local River?

  • There is more to do as well but you have to do your research and above all, don't give up.
  • IN the meantime prepared a document itemizing the history of navigation of this spot and its recreational value. Use the Kipawa river history of navigation as a guide: see
  • Under the Ministry of Environment guidelines you have a set period of time to petition the change under the environmental bill of rights, you may have limited time to take this action. But it involves going to court for a judicial review of the decision.
  • 4. contact the ministry of natural resources officials and do the same thing.
  • 3. contact the ministry of the environment and determine if they approved the project
  • 2. determine if the dam was a legal dam, approved under the navigable waters protection act.
  • 1. research the decision and timing of it to determine if an environmental assessment was done.

Minden Ontario

Minden Ontario
Gull River Water control at Horseshoe lake

A History of Navigation on the Kipawa River

Prior to the environmental assessment there was no signage at the Laniel Dam

T-Shirts Area: These are available now!

T-Shirts Area: These are available now!
Send $25 and a stamped self addressed envelop for the Tshirt, and for the bumper sticker, a stamped and self addressed envelope with $5.00 for the bumper sticker to Les Amis de la rivière Kipawa, 80 Ontario St., Ottawa, Ontario, K1K 1K9 or click the link To purchase a Les Amis "T" contact Doug with the following information: Number of shirts:Sizes: Ship to Address: Method of Payment: cash, cheque and paypal, Shipto address:

Bumper Stickers Now Available

Bumper Stickers Now Available
Get your bumper sticker and show your support for the Kipawa Legal Fund ! - send $5.00 in a Stamped, self addressed envelope to: Peter Karwacki Box 39111, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1H 7X0