Boating Safety Consultations

Working towards a healthy and safe river, shared and enjoyed by all.

Background

In recent years, the Gatineau River has experienced a significant increase in recreational usage by swimmers, paddlers, floaters, and motorboaters. This mixed-use congestion on the narrow river threatens human safety and impacts the environment.

The MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais, in partnership with Friends of the Gatineau River, applied to the Transport Canada Office of Boating Safety Vessel Operation Restriction Regulation (VORR) program. The application acknowledges the problems, their impacts on safety, the environment, and the public interest. It also commits to an exploration of non-regulatory measures (awareness, enforcement of existing laws, voluntary codes of conduct) and public consultations to explore potential changes to boating regulations, if required.

Consultation Process and Timeline

April 2021: Application to Transport Canada. The MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais, and the Municipalities of La Pêche and Chelsea, passed resolutions to apply to the Transport Canada VORR program.  As the Local Authority for this project, the MRC submitted the Preliminary Assessment Form and the consultation project was approved by Transport Canada.

May-September 2021: Public Awareness and Enforcement Campaign. Following Transport Canada guidelines, the Friends of the Gatineau River and the MRC will conduct a public awareness and enforcement campaign throughout the 2021 season to promote responsible boating and human-powered recreation on the river.

June-October 2021: Public Consultations. As required by the rigorous Transport Canada requirements, multiple consultation sessions will be held with all stakeholders, data gathered, cost-benefit analyses performed, and the impact of non-regulatory measures assessed. If non-regulatory measures do not sufficiently mitigate the problems, a formal application for new speed limits and/or other restrictions will be prepared.

Tentative consultation schedule:

  • Consultation #1: Is scheduled for June 21, 2021. It will focus on the problem definition and the exploration of non-regulatory measures to be implemented during the 2021 season. Register here.
  • Consultation # 2: Will be held in late-September or early-October. It will focus on the assessment of the data gathered during the summer, and explore regulatory changes, if the non-regulatory measures were not sufficient.
  • Consultation #3 Will be held in October, if regulatory changes will be requested. It will seek consensus on the specific regulatory changes to be requested.
  • Additional consultations will be conducted, if required.

August 2022: Annual Application Deadline. Should the MRC proceed with a formal applications for new boating restrictions, Transport Canada accepts applications until August 15 each year. New restrictions take effect the following boating season (2023) at the earliest.

Consultation Sessions

June 21, 2021: First Public Consultation. The first session focused on the problem definition and the exploration of non-regulatory measures to be implemented during the 2021 season. View the results.

CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS

Our River Guardian program needs your help this summer to monitor river activity and increase awareness of responsible river use.

Two volunteers will be posted at the Farm Point boat launch on as many busy days as possible throughout the summer to hand out information and capture data about boat launch use.

Additional volunteers are needed to monitor river activity at key locations, capturing photos, videos, and information about river use, safety incidents, and the impact of boat wakes.

If you are able to volunteer some weekend hours this summer, please let us know.

Sign-up now.

A virtual briefing will be held in early June to discuss the tasks and schedule for all River Guardians.

Make a Submission

As part of our public consultations, we invite your submissions of research, information, topics for discussion, rebuttals, or questions. 

Make a submission.

Project Background Presentation

Interactive Map

Explore the map to learn about river dimensions, recreational hotspots, access points, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the current speed restrictions on the Gatineau River?
A speed restriction was established in 2002 (VORR, Part 3, #241) from Paugan Dam to Rapides-Farmer Dam: 10 km/h within 30 m of shore and 55 km/h beyond 30 m.

History: high speed motor boats have been recognized as a problem on the narrow river since shortly after the logs stopped running. Friends of the Gatineau was founded in 1991 and immediately started a many-year effort advocating for speed limits. Finally, in 2000, Chelsea and Cantley jointly petitioned the Québec government, leading to the current speed limits being established for the 2002 season. Friends of the Gatineau River pressed for a much lower speed limit but was unsuccessful in the face of opposition from local boaters.

What other laws and regulations apply to motor boating on the Gatineau River?
Criminal Code Offences

  • It is a criminal offence (Section 249 1b) to operate any type of pleasure craft in a fashion that is dangerous to the public. Thus, it is illegal if an operator operates dangerously close to other vessels, or operates at dangerously high speeds, or disturbs swimmers with the vessel’s wake, or fails to slow the vessel when visibility is reduced.
  • It is a criminal offence to consume drugs or alcohol while operating any type of vessel (Section 253 a), or to operate a vessel while in any way impaired by drugs or alcohol (Section 253 b).

Other regulations require pleasure craft operators to: 

  • Stay well clear of swimmers, paddle craft, wildlife, and waterfront properties
  • Adjust speed to reduce noise whenever possible so as not to be an irritant to other users or to waterfront residents.
  • Adjust speed so that your wash and wake will not disturb others, erode shorelines, disturb wildlife, or damage property.
  • Follow the Collision Regulations requirements regarding maintaining a safe speed depending on visibility and water conditions.
  • Know and comply with all boating restrictions (engine power limits, speed limits, etc.) in effect where you are operating.
  • Use courtesy and common sense so as not to create a hazard, a threat, a stress, or an irritant to others or to the environment.

Source: Pleasure Craft Operators Card Study Guide

What boating restrictions are possible under Transport Canada’s Vessel Operation Restriction Regulation (VORR)?
VORR enables seven restrictions (VORR, Appendix 4):

  1. All vessels prohibited
  2. No power-driven vessels (includes electrical propulsion)
  3. No power driven vessels (electrical propulsion allowed)
  4. Engine power limit
  5. Speed restriction
  6. No power driven vessels towing a person (skis, wakeboard, etc.)
  7. Permit is required to hold a sporting or recreational event

Additionally, these restrictions can:

  • Apply at all times
  • Apply to certain times of the day, week, month or year
  • Target a particular type of craft
Why is 10 km/h the near-universal speed limit for minimizing wake impact?
 

Research shows that most boats are in “displacement mode” below 10 km/h, where the boat is level in the water, creating wake waves that are no more damaging than naturally-occurring wind waves. Speeding up, even to just 15 km/h, most boats enter “transition (or plowing) mode,” creating the largest, most damaging wakes. For some boats, a further speed increase allows the hull to enter “planing mode”, where the boat levels, less hull area contacts the water, and the wake produced is less damaging than the transition mode, but still significantly more damaging than displacement mode.

That’s why 10 km/h (or the slightly lower limits of 5 mph or 5 knots in other countries) is the universal standard, except in very narrow channels where 5 km/h is sometimes used. In Quebec alone, over 60 water bodies have a speed limit of 10 km/h extending 100 m or more from shore.

Why do 10 km/h slow-speed zones often extend 100 m or more from shore?
Research shows that boats within 150 m of the shoreline can produce waves large enough to result in significant shoreline erosion, and this guidance from the U.S Coast Guard also recommends slowing down to minimize wake within 150 m of a small boat or the shoreline.

That’s why over 60 water bodies in Quebec have 10 km/h speed limits extending from 100 m or more from shore.

Which other water bodies in Quebec have VORR speed restrictions?
VORR Schedule 6 lists all the water bodies in Canada that have been granted speed restrictions.

59 small Quebec lakes have limits of 10 km/h that extend 100 m or greater from shore. In most cases, the limits were sought because of dense recreational usage. Some limits extend up to 200 m from shore. The breakdown:

  • 16 lakes have a 10 km/h limit for the entire lake
  • 37 lakes have a 10 km/h limit within 100 m of shore
  • 6 lakes have a 10 km/h limit extending greater than 100 m from shore, including: Lac Maskinongé at 150 m, Bassin de Chambly at 125 m, Lac Aylmer at 200 m,  Lac Nairne at 200 m, Lac Brome at 150 m

13 narrow rivers (typically 25-60 m wide) have 5 km/h speed limits.

Dense recreational shorelines on some large rivers have 10 km/h limits extending 300-600 m from shore, including: Des Deux Montagnes, 10 km/h within 600 m of the shore of the waterfront village of Saint-Placide; St. Lawrence River near the entrance to the Lachine canal: 10 km/h within 300 m of shore.

No other river in Quebec has the Gatineau’s combination of: narrow width, calm waters, extent of waterfront residential development, and intensive use for swimming, paddling, floating, and dinghy sailing. The physical and usage characteristics of the Gatineau are closer to those found on the many small lakes listed above.

 

Who can enforce VORR restrictions?
VORR regulations (section 16) prescribe who can enforce the restrictions. In the case of the Gatineau River, two main options for enforcement exist:

  1. The local police force (MRC Police or Sûreté du Québec)
  2. Specially-designated parties, as has been implemented in 24 places in Quebec, mostly in the Eastern Townships. The MRC must apply to Transport Canada for this designation.

 

What is the minimum speed required to support towing activity?
Speed ranges required by towing activity (reference):

  • Children water skiing: 21-26 km/h
  • Tubing 13-40 km/h
  • Adult Trick Skiing 18-34 km/h
  • Adult Slalom Skiing 30-55 km/h
  • Adult Kneeboarding 26-31 km/h
  • Wakeboarding 26-30 km/h

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