Ottawa RiverRegulationPlanning BoardCommission de planificationde la régularisationde la rivière des Outaouais

The Planning Board

The Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board (the Planning Board) was established in 1983 by the governments of Canada, Québec and Ontario. The Planning Board was created to ensure the integrated (or collaborative) management of the principal reservoirs of the Ottawa River Basin.

You can view where principal reservoirs are located within the watershed and find out about their capacities here.

In 1983, the governments also established two other entities:

  • The Ottawa River Regulating Committee (the Committee), and
  • The Ottawa River Regulation Secretariat (the Secretariat).

Both the Committee and the Secretariat report to the Planning Board. To learn more about the organizational structure of the Planning Board, please refer to the ‘Structure’ section below.

The mandate of the Planning Board is defined by an agreement between Canada, Québec and Ontario. To learn more about the agreement, please click here.

The Planning Board is not a ‘Control Board’. It cannot dictate river water levels given that 60% of the watershed is uncontrolled, making the river only partially regulated and largely at the mercy of natural snow melt runoff and rainfall events. It also cannot dictate how operators manage their reservoirs. The Planning Board formulates and implements water management (or regulation) policies and criteria setting common goals for the operators of principal reservoirs to work towards. These regulation policies and criteria lead to integrated management of the reservoirs.

The purpose of integrated water management within the basin is to reduce the impacts of floods along the Ottawa River all the way down to the Montreal Region. These impacts are reduced on the tributaries of the Ottawa River, such as the Montreal, Kipawa, Gatineau and Lièvre rivers, where most reservoirs are located and on the main stem of the Ottawa River in which tributaries flow. In addition to aiming to reduce impacts of extreme weather conditions, the integrated management of the reservoirs in the Ottawa River Basin also involves maintaining beneficial water uses. Beneficial water use includes activities such as (in no specific order of priority):

  • hydro-electric energy production,
  • water levels that support important ecological functions including fish spawning,
  • water supply to municipalities, and
  • recreational and commercial activities.

Through the work of the Committee, the Planning Board makes important hydrological information about the Ottawa River available to the public. This information includes:

  • details of current river conditions, including water levels and flows at various locations, and comparison of current conditions with normal values,
  • details of water stored in the principal reservoirs, including reservoir levels and water quantities being released, and
  • forecasts of river flows and levels along the Ottawa River that the Committee generates to inform the management of water flow at the principal reservoirs.

No involvement in the following

The Planning Board is not involved in developing policies to manage flood risk areas, benefit hydroelectric energy production or the protection of fisheries. It is also not involved with the management nor with the interpretation or implementation of legal documents related to flooding easement on private properties. Operators address these individually as part of their respective Operating Plans.

Something special about the main stem of the Ottawa River

All the facilities (dams) located along the main stem of the river between Lake Timiskaming and the basin outlet, except the Des Joachims (also called Swisha) facility, cannot significantly reduce the impacts of downstream flooding during a high flow event, like the principal reservoirs can, given that they have minimal storage ability. The Planning Board refers to those facilities as ‘run-of-river dams’. These are not ‘principal reservoirs’.  To learn more about run-of-river facilities along the main stem of the Ottawa River, please refer to FAQ 5.

The mandate of the Planning Board regarding these facilities and the river reaches where they are located is limited to:

  • reporting and forecasting on hydrological conditions, and
  • communicating general information related to water management to the public and agencies.

The forecast of river flows and levels along the Ottawa River by the Committee is also very important for other government organizations. For example, it informs the preparation and publication of flood-related messages along the Ottawa River. The publication of flood messages is the responsibility of each province.

The forecast of the Ottawa River flows at its outlet is also important to inform the regulation of Lake Ontario. This is why the Planning Board works with the Great Lakes ‐ St. Lawrence Regulation Office who is responsible for carrying out the day-to-day regulation activities for the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB).  The two groups liaise and share relevant flow forecasts of the Ottawa River. To learn more about the regulation of Lake Ontario, please visit the ILOSLRB website here.