View topic - Have bow saw. Will travel.

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PostPosted: September 25th, 2019, 8:55 pm 
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I have fallen in love with a local stream. Quiet. Tree-lined. Thirty minutes from my urban home.

The problem is that it meanders through private land (not in itself a problem since there are no homes/developments near the stream) but it is occasionally choked from downfall.

I'd like to clear the strainers to make the stream more easily navigatable. Ultimately, I might get 10k or more of quiet stream to paddle without the need for even a liftover.

I'd use a bow saw.

But am I doing anything illegal etc?

Anyone know of the rules in Ontario regarding clearing obstructions in a waterway?

Thanks.

-?-

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2019, 4:04 pm 
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I think the #1 rule might be to not post your intentions on a public forum!

Just kidding, I hope you can find the official guidance you're looking for, if it exists... It's probably a grey area - you could inquire with 10 different organizations/officials, municipal, provincial and federal, or even different officials within one organization, and get 10 different answers. Depending on who you ask, people could apply a lens of property rights, habitat protection, animal protection, fish protection, water quality, building permits (I know you're not building anything, but don't expect what people come back with to always make sense!), protected areas, and possibly navigation, but who knows what else. You'll probably have to steer them and re-steer them to focus on navigability (pun intended), because their comfort zone will probably be some of the other stuff.

Because it's probably a grey area and an area of potentially overlapping authorities, expect the answers to err on the side of being conservative - nobody will want to give you "approval" if their jurisdiction and/or regulations aren't clear. Put another way, if there is no clear, simple answer that lies with them and depends on nobody else, they may have no ability to say "yes", so they'll find reasons why "no" is more likely, and/or send you elsewhere. So, if you do go the route of asking about the rules, don't take a vague "no" as an answer, push for the specific reasons why, in terms of the relevant authorities and regulations. People may want to tell you "no" even though they can't tell you exactly why, and you shouldn't have to accept that.

In your back pocket for any such conversations, it would be good to have some general ideas about regulations/principles etc. that do support rights related to public waterways and navigation. There's probably some folks on here that could arm you with some of that.

Personally, if you're not concerned about it being in anyone's face (i.e., doesn't directly affect adjacent landowners), you can clear it with hand tools, and you keep it to a standard that relates to making a passable channel for a canoe (i.e., don't clear more than you need to), then I think it's a no-brainer to just go ahead and go for frequent paddles, clearing obstructions as needed.

Let us know what you learn!

Good luck, Pat.

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PostPosted: September 28th, 2019, 7:42 am 
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If the land isn't posted (there aren't any no trespassing signs, and no red dots on trees), the landowner may not care.

Easiest way is to talk to the landowner for permission... the landowner may not own the water but does own the trees growing on the land so cutting them, esp on a small stream, might raise some objections.

PS... some snips from the new Canadian Navigable Waters Act... if the stream has a history of being navigable water or can be defined as navigable water, your argument for keeping it open may be strengthened, legally.

Quote:
...navigable water means a body of water, including a canal or any other body of water created or altered as a result of the construction of any work, that is used or where there is a reasonable likelihood that it will be used by vessels, in full or in part, for any part of the year as a means of transport or travel for commercial or recreational purposes...


But the NWA does not consider obstructions of natural origin.

Quote:
...obstruction means any thing, including a vessel that is left anchored, moored or adrift or a wreck, that obstructs or impedes navigation or renders it more difficult or dangerous, but does not include a thing of natural origin...


https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/canadian-navig ... s-act.html

It's interesting, let us know how this works out. In the past, I've run into some pretty unreasonable landowners and also the opposite. And being a landowner, also some unreasonable trespassers.

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PostPosted: September 28th, 2019, 11:09 am 
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Sometimes it's better to apologize than to ask permission.


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PostPosted: September 30th, 2019, 8:18 pm 
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This is potentially quite detrimental to fish habitat. Many fish benefit from wood in streams, which can be used by them for refuge from strong currents, to hunt, create shade from sun, and also good for benthic invertebrates which are eaten by many smaller fish. If you do end up clearing the stream, try and remove the minimum amount of logs necessary to pass through. This assumes it's naturally woody stream of course. If the wood is from landowners tossing in wood that has been clearly cut with a saw, or lumber from upstream, or dead ash trees killed by emerald ash borer, then you may have a decent cause to remove much of the wood. I can confirm that most municipalities and conservation authorities have little to no formal documentation about large wood debris in streams. Only the big cities with flood risk have any type of management policy for woody debris.


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PostPosted: October 1st, 2019, 7:58 am 
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Agree completely... in small streams, removing fish habitat that woody debris provides may be why a landowner might have objections. I don't think charges would be laid for anybody removing strainers in a larger river, under the Federal Fisheries Act, where harmful alterations to productive capacity are prohibited, but the general intent of the law suggests that that wouldn't be encouraged.

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PostPosted: October 1st, 2019, 11:40 am 
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Argument about fish habitat aside, you need to check with the owners if the stream clearly passes though private land. It does not require to be posted (signs, red dots etc). The onus is on the user to verify the land ownership. I have never paddles 'private' rivers, but I do fish for rainbows in Goderich on rivers that pass through private land, and yes the river belongs to them if they own both sides of the bank. If they only own one side and the other is crown or ownership undetermined, stick to that side. It could have different owners for each side as well since rivers are often used as natural boundaries. But for sure get permission, the owner will be pissed if they catch you cutting things on their property. even if they don't really care about said sweepers, its the fact of trespassing that will piss them off.

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PostPosted: November 6th, 2019, 7:46 pm 
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Captaincanadian wrote:
Argument about fish habitat aside, you need to check with the owners if the stream clearly passes though private land. It does not require to be posted (signs, red dots etc). The onus is on the user to verify the land ownership. I have never paddles 'private' rivers, but I do fish for rainbows in Goderich on rivers that pass through private land, and yes the river belongs to them if they own both sides of the bank. If they only own one side and the other is crown or ownership undetermined, stick to that side. It could have different owners for each side as well since rivers are often used as natural boundaries. But for sure get permission, the owner will be pissed if they catch you cutting things on their property. even if they don't really care about said sweepers, its the fact of trespassing that will piss them off.


Wrong, wrong, wrong.....they do not own the river and if the river is navigable it can be paddled down and it isn't considered trespassing...when it comes to removing obstacles, like others have said, that is likely a grey area especially if the obstacle is connected to their land.


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PostPosted: November 7th, 2019, 1:41 pm 
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Break branches, tuck things back into the brush, don't leave obvious saw-cuts, wood-chips, or sawdust. A handful of mud covers up fresh cuts nicely. If you are discrete, and only remove as little as needed you might be fine. If you go at it like a logger or road-builder you probably won't.

Depends on the land-owner's and your, attitude. :)


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PostPosted: November 7th, 2019, 5:25 pm 
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Captaincanadian wrote:
.... the river belongs to them if they own both sides of the bank. ....... But for sure get permission, the owner will be pissed if they catch you cutting things on their property. even if they don't really care about said sweepers, its the fact of trespassing that will piss them off.


Where does this idea/interpretation/belief come from?

Here in Alberta..

Crown ownership

In Alberta, the province owns most of the beds and shores of naturally occurring lakes, rivers and streams. It also owns most of the beds and shores of wetlands if they are permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water. Section 3 of the Public Lands Act outlines the legal aspect of this ownership.

The ownership of the beds and shores of a body of water is not always obvious. It may require historical research to verify. Few land titles in Alberta mention the ownership of beds and shores as water bodies by law, are already reserved.

Exceptions to Crown ownership
Former HBC lands

Before Canada’s Confederation, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was an English fur trading company. King Charles II of England granted ownership of what was then known as Rupert’s Land to the HBC. This area included what is now known as the province of Alberta.

In 1870 HBC surrendered its lands to the Dominion of Canada, with conditions. This included the retention of the following lands:

HBC posts
a block of land adjoining each post
a grant of land in each surveyed township set out for settlement

HBC retained ownership of:

All lands south of the North Saskatchewan River within all of Section 8 and ¾ of Section 26 (except the northeast quarter) in every township as surveyed.
All of Sections 26 and 8 in every surveyed township divisible by 5.

The HBC was able to sell these lands without any reservations on title and passed the ownership of water body beds and shores onto title holders.


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PostPosted: November 7th, 2019, 7:03 pm 
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If the land I wish to explore is First Nations reserve, or might be traditional unceeded territory - I ask at the band office, out of respect. I feel they have the right to make decisions about their waterways and land, as the traditional stewards.


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PostPosted: November 7th, 2019, 8:27 pm 
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BootScoot and Jager,

I say this from personal experience, I have a close friend who owns 1000 acres ranch with a river (albeit not a real paddling river although I suppose you could if you wanted to) running right down the middle of his land, that section of river is his, his barb wire fence runs the perimeter of his land and where the river enters and exits his land the fence runs straight across the river making it impassable unless you are a fish. He hangs a red dot sign on the fence in the river. The exception being if he didn't own the land on one side of the river, then as long as you don't touch down on his land, you are free to travel the water, but when it is private land on both sides, its private. Most land owners allow access to fishermen etc. as long as you are respectful and therefore the perception may seem like it is not private, but it is.

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PostPosted: November 8th, 2019, 1:23 am 
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For most canoeable rivers, I'm guessing private ownership of the watercourse is by far the exception, not the rule. Anything is possible, but I believe it's still fair to say most navigable rivers are public. Other scenarios are interesting anecdotes to be considered, but not likely relevant.

Either way: 1) It is difficult to get a clear answer to this because there are multiple potential scenarios and authorities, not a single, clear decision maker; and, 2) You want to be respectful of adjacent landowners regardless.

I wouldn't overthink it. If there's a public river that you can access and navigate, and there's some obstructions in the way that you can deal with without trespass or disturbance, then clear 'em up (with the lightest touch possible) and paddle on!

P.

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Last edited by yarnellboat on November 8th, 2019, 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: November 8th, 2019, 9:56 am 
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@WWGOD - "am I doing anything illegal, etc?"

I agree that each situation is specific and also think it's kind of tragic that the laws/guidelines are so complex that it pretty much guarantees that there could be conflict among people that all believe they are doing the right thing. So in some cases it may be illegal but you aren't likely to get caught and if caught you aren't likely to be prosecuted and if prosecuted you aren't likely to be severely penalized. In the US the first offense for trespassing incurs a $500 fine. If you're on my riverfront property cutting my trees and get caught you will be prosecuted.

But you are definitely doing something "etc". By interfering with nature you reduce wetlands, reduce biodiversity beyond just fish, reduce natural pollution control, increase erosion and in general just impact nature's ability to recover and show off the beauty that would exist without interference by people. I'm happy to pull over or go around obstacles to enjoy secluded natural streams and creeks.


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PostPosted: November 8th, 2019, 12:16 pm 
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Quote:
If you're on my riverfront property cutting my trees...


Obviously best practice is not to find yourself on anyone's land cutting trees! That seems like a whole different question. Limit the clearing to what's in the river channel, and only clear what's needed to get your canoe through.

Quote:
you are definitely doing something "etc". By interfering with nature...


This gets pretty slippery-slope subjective depending on the type of obstructions and clearing that is being assumed. Depending on the stream, some of the obstruction may be unnatural, related to land-use practices of riverfront properties (e.g. dumping brush, clearing trees, fencing or other furnishings/structures, etc.), and even natural disturbance/obstruction can become unhealthy for a watercourse, or prevent it's use & enjoyment, which is also an important value.

In my mind, clearing what's necessary to get a canoe through is likely a far cry from impacting ecosystem functions like wetlands, biodiversity, erosion, pollution control, etc., but I guess that depends on the streams and scenarios we each imagine in our own minds. If it's an accessible public river and clearing mid-stream strainers can be done with a light touch, I personally think the benefits of keeping it navigable & enjoyed are worthwhile & legit, and should have no significant impacts on ecosystem health or adjacent landowners.

Go around what you can. Clear as little needed. Be respectful. Enjoy.

Legalities would be nice to know, but is unfortunately difficult, so bottom line, the 2 questions that need to be asked if you want to access a river like described are: 1. "Am I doing too much to change the river?" and 2. "Am I bugging anyone?".

WWGOD?, sounds very lucky to find 10 km of nice, quiet stream close to home for personal get-aways! May you enjoy it often. Let us know how it goes.

P.

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