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Adopt a river - Richelieu River

River Richelieu

Photo credit : Thierry Lemaître – Unsplash

Adopt the Richelieu River to:

Your contribution allows us to continue to protect Quebec's rivers

The Richelieu River is well known: it serves as the backyard of many Quebecers... or even as a highway, which creates its share of collateral effects. Its bustle in spring and the pleasures it offers in summer make it famous. A gathering place, it can quickly become noisy. The Richelieu River is thus rarely discreet: without being eccentric, it is flashy, exuberant in spite of itself!

Do you know the Richelieu River?

Name Abenaki

Masesoliantegw (“river with lots of money”)

Length

113km

Source

Lake Champlain

Region

Montérégie

Total elevation

29m

Average flow

337 m3/s

Spring mood swings

Extending only 113 km between Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River, suffice to say that the Richelieu River is as high as three apples. Despite its smallness, it is the site of phenomena with devastating effects in the spring, when it leaves its bed. In 2011, flooding in Saint-Basile-le-Grand forced the evacuation of residents in addition to affecting the quality of water in the watershed, through a contribution of sediment and phosphorus into Lake Champlain. . His mood swings have become more timid since then.

Queen of nautical pleasures

During the warm season, motorboats go at full speed on the Richelieu, alongside canoes, kayaks and paddleboards which glide peacefully there. In the spring, when the water level is high enough, surfers and kayakers dominate the waves that naturally form in the Chambly rapids. The Richelieu is therefore an important playground… for better and for worse.

Photo credit : Gilles Croteau

What are the environmental issues?

Conflict of use between motorboats and all other nautical activities

The Richelieu turns into a real highway on summer weekends: too many motorboats travel there, and sometimes too fast. Sharing the river can then prove difficult. This reality comes with high decibels and a safety risk for water sports enthusiasts.

The Fondation Rivières participated in the process leading to new Transport Canada regulations, which came into force on December 20, 2023, on the Richelieu River. Boat speed is reduced at 10 km/h less than 50 m from the banks over a 20 km stretch, among others. 

The Foundation supported the Association of Residents and Friends of the Richelieu, the Montérégie Regional Environmental Council and the Richelieu River Basin Consultation and Development Committee (COVABAR) when mobilizing municipal elected officials who were attacked by the nautical industry lobby who opposed the regulation. It is finally the version resulting from a compromise which was adopted, good news for the habitats of threatened species, bank erosion and the safety of river users! 

The Fondation Rivières achieved a study in order to identify bacteriological contamination events in E.coli and their source in the Chambly basin to assess the potential to open swimming areas. Good news: the water quality is very good in dry weather!

The City of Chambly will continue its efforts to monitor water quality annually, through the analysis of water samples. 

On the Richelieu, boats take precedence over swimming. To restore the balance, the Fondation Rivières, the City of Chambly (2023) and the municipality of Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu (2022) are organizing a Grand Splash to claim the right to bathe there.

Previously, it was in Saint-Paul-de-l'île-aux-Noix and Mont-Saint-Hilaire that these mobilization events took place. Swimming not only allows us to adapt to heatwaves that are becoming more and more frequent with climate change: by opening a swimming site, a municipality undertakes to ensure the quality of the water there.

Fondation Rivières has joined forces with COVABAR to launch a large-scale consultation project aimed at enhancing the recreational tourism potential of the Richelieu River, by proposing water access facilities to allow everyone to access the river while respecting natural environments.

This project is financially supported by the government of Quebec as part of “Sustainable destination and concerted action”, a support measure coordinated by the Quebec Action Fund for Sustainable Development (FAQDD) arising from Plan for a green economy 2030 and the Action Plan for responsible and sustainable tourism 2020-2025. Following phase 1 of the project, the objective is for the consultation body that will be set up to continue its mandate for sustainable cohabitation on the river.

Water quality 

Wastewater spills and numerous pleasure boats are among the elements that affect the water quality of this emblematic river of Montérégie.

In addition to releasing hydrocarbons into the water, motorboats help to lift, with their propellers, sediments accumulated in the bottom of the water, which several microorganisms feast on. Aquatic fauna is also affected by these activities, particularly due to the noise caused by boats.

Faced with the risks posed by the establishment of the Northvolt plant for the water quality of the Richelieu River, among others, the Fondation Rivières joined a dozen organizations to demand the holding of a Public Hearings Office on the Environment (BAPE), or a strategic environmental assessment of the entire battery sector.

In 2017, canoeists noted worrying water quality on the Richelieu River during the annual event The Richelieu in 24 hours. This was all it took for the Fondation Rivières to identify the sources of pollution of municipal origin in the territory of the Richelieu River watershed and the Saint-Laurent zone. The results are unequivocal: wastewater spills are numerous and infrastructure management is haphazard. In collaboration with COVABAR, the Fondation Rivières recommends a series of measures to identify and reduce wastewater discharges in the watershed.

Since 2020, the Fondation Rivières has disclosed the list of municipalities that stand out in terms of the intensity of their wastewater discharges into waterways, including the Richelieu River. This exercise makes it possible to distinguish municipalities which have improved their situation in previous years from those where the situation has deteriorated. THE prize list serves as a lever to encourage elected officials to make the necessary corrections to improve the health of the rivers into which wastewater is discharged.

Bank erosion

The waves created by motorboats accelerate the natural erosion of the banks of the Richelieu. The eddies caused by these boats are often greater than those created by Mother Nature. The banks of the Richelieu are therefore increasingly eroded, a problem that is increasingly common on several rivers in Quebec.

The Fondation Rivières participated in the process leading to new Transport Canada regulations, which came into force on December 20, 2023, on the Richelieu River. Boat speed is reduced at 10 km/h less than 50 m from the banks over a 20 km stretch, among others. 

The Foundation supported the Association of Residents and Friends of the Richelieu, the Montérégie Regional Environmental Council and the Richelieu River Basin Consultation and Development Committee (COVABAR) when mobilizing municipal elected officials who were attacked by the nautical industry lobby who opposed the regulation. It is finally the version resulting from a compromise which was adopted, good news for the habitats of threatened species, bank erosion and the safety of river users! 

Loss of species habitat

The Richelieu River is one of the only rivers in Quebec where the copper redhorse swims. This is a threatened and endangered species that is only found in La Belle Province. Since this fish lives in aquatic grass beds at shallow depths, it is sensitive to the effects of movements in these areas, which can be caused by motorized boats, among others.

In 2018, Fondation Rivières partnered with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and other organizations to form a Round Table for the Defense of the Copper Redhorse. Together, we asked Fisheries and Oceans Canada to issue a ministerial order to protect the habitat of the copper redhorse, as prescribed by the federal Species at Risk Act. for the protection of endangered species.

Photo credit : Gilles Croteau

Can you swim in the Richelieu River? 

There is currently only one public beach on the Richelieu River, in Saint-Paul-de-l'Île-aux-Noix. That said, Fondation Rivières carried out a study on water quality in the Chambly basin, which revealed that in dry weather, swimming is possible! All that remains is for the City to continue its efforts to eventually provide access to swimming. 

Help us by adopting the Richelieu River

The Fondation Rivières is mobilizing on this river to:

Donate and join an important mobilization movement!

Charity receipt

Fondation Rivières issues tax-deductible donation receipts, regardless of the amount. A receipt will be sent to you by email at the beginning of the year following the year of your adoption.

Organizations involved in the field

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Make a difference for the environment

Become a member of the Foundation by donating. Your contribution allows our team to continue to mobilize to protect Quebec's rivers and waterways for future generations. 

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