SAUGEEN SHORES, ON – It was a fine day for a gathering on the banks of the Saugeen River, the site of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly rehabilitated Denny’s Dam. In attendance at the ceremony were the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) Chiefs Greg Nadjiwon and Lester Anoquot and council members from both the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation, representatives from the Environment Office of the SON, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC), representatives from the MNRF, Federal and Provincial MPs, local mayors, and community members. According to the GLFC, Denny’s Dam is a crucial tool in the fight against sea lamprey which threaten the great lakes.
The dam, originally built in the 1870s for use as a saw mill, was rebuilt in the 1970s with the main purpose of stopping sea lamprey from spreading in the great lakes. The sea lamprey crisis was at its worst in the 1940s, a time when the lamprey were consuming 100 million pounds of fish annually. The dam is specifically designed to stop sea lamprey from moving beyond it to breed, which means that more invasive strategies, like chemicals (lampricide) could be avoided as they would pose a risk to native river lamprey species. In 2000, a dam safety report was conducted and found that Denny’s Dam was in poor condition and needed to be refurbished, this was the very beginning of the project.
In the fall of 2017 work started on Denny’s Dam, as a partnership between the GLFC and SON, headed by Doran Ritchie, the Infrastructure and Resources Manger with the Environment Office of SON and funded by the Canadian Federal Government. The construction work on the dam wrapped up in the fall of 2018, with a number of improvements being made to make the dam safer and more effective. In addition to the construction work, there were great efforts to consult with SON on their use of the river, including a Land Use Occupancy Study completed by the Environment Office’s Kathleen Ryan. The project “started with recognizing the importance of the river to SON,” said Kathleen Ryan, adding that she interviewed “15 SON members about their whole lives on the river,” which highlighted 800 points of importance along a two kilometre stretch of river. “Science is a snapshot in time, this study allowed for a more full story of the river,” said Ryan.
In recognition of the partnership between the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and SON, the GLFC awarded the 2019 C.D. “Buzz” Besadny Award for Fostering Great Lakes Partnerships to the SON Chiefs, Greg Nadjiwon of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and Lester Anoquot of the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation, the two First Nations that comprise the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. A letter from the GLFC explained the importance of the project and the award, “[the] award is presented to individuals and groups who exemplify an extraordinary commitment to building strong and lasting partnerships in Great Lakes resource management.” The award recognizes not only the SON Chiefs, but also Doran Ritchie and Kathleen Ryan of the Environment Office of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. Representatives of both SON and GLFC expressed their pleasure with the Denny’s Dam project, as well as the partnership between the two, which they describe as a strong and important relationship that they expect to be long lasting.
For more information about this project or other projects taking place in the SON Traditional Territory, please contact the Environment Office of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation or visit the Environment Office website at https://www.saugeenojibwaynation.ca.