Ribbon Cutting

From left, Saugeen First Nation Chief Lester Anoquot, Commissioner James Mckane, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Chief Greg Nadjiwon. The ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of the Denny’s Dam rehabilitation took place on June 7 in Southampton.

Hub Staff

On Friday, June 7 a ribbon cutting ceremony took place at Denny’s Dam in Southampton to commemorate the successful rehabilitation project funded by the Canadian Government. The undertaking had been in the works for almost 20 years after a 2000 safety study revealed deficiencies in the dam. It took the collaboration and leadership of many different individuals to see this feat to fruition. Construction began in 2017 and reached completion in early November of 2018.

Members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), Chiefs of the Saugeen First Nation and Neyaashiinigmiing, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation; Project Engineers, Kathleen Ryan from the SON Environment Office, members of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC), Ontario Steelheaders, the Lake Huron Fishing Club and many more involved in the project, congregated on the banks of the Saugeen River to celebrate this great achievement.


Many took to the shade as the gathered crowd at Denny’s Dam waited to hear words from project members, community Chiefs and dignitaries at the ceremony to celebrate a rewarding experience for all parties involved.

The original dam was built in 1870 by John Denny and purchased in the early 1900s by the Saugeen Electric Light & Power Company to produce power for Southampton and Port Elgin and was later taken over by Ontario Hydro.

Bob Lambe, Executive Secretary of the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, described the devastating invasion of the sea lamprey into the Great Lakes during the 1940s and 1950s, which instigated the rebuilding of Denny’s Dam by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) in 1970 to block the sea lamprey and halt the spawning process.

Dennys Dam

Denny's Dam.

“We’ve lost sight of how bad sea lamprey can be because we’ve had it under control for so many decades,” said Lambe. It’s estimated that without the dam, 30,000 lamprey would out-migrate into the Saugeen River and Lake Huron. A single sea lamprey can destroy 18 kilograms of fish in its parasitic phase.

Lambe described the immense impact of the invasion with 100 million pounds of fish lost the ripple effect washed out the fishing industry. Furthermore, the loss of the predator fish resulted in a drastic over population of prey fish which littered beaches and drove away cottagers.

Stressing the importance of the rehabilitation and the value of the leadership from Chiefs Nadjiwon and Anoquot, Lambe said, “A breach in the dam and we would quickly digress back."

Doran Ritchie, Resources Manager at the SON Environment Office, explained the difficulties early on in the process when the MNRF refrained from consultation with SON. In 2015 a meeting between Ritchie and the GLFC created a turning point for the project which broke down the communication barriers between the groups.

Doran Ritchie

Doran Ritchie from the SON Environment Office credited the project’s success to the continued open dialogue between the SON and the GLFC at the ribbon cutting ceremony June 7 in Southampton.

Chief Greg Nadjiwon of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation acknowledged the progress in communication and respect of his community. “For years we were locked out and that created animosity and mistrust,” he said. “Results have improved immensely.”

A Land Use and Occupational Study led by Kathleen Ryan was another pivotal aspect of the project. Comprehensive interviews with 15 members of the SON community conducted by Ryan and her team collected stories and memories of the Saugeen River over the lifetime of each individual. From the details of these interviews Ryan managed to map out 800 points of significance along the river. Ryan mentioned the Buzz Besadny Award she received from the GLFC for fostering Great Lake partnerships and graciously passed on the recognition to the community members who were interviewed and whose dedication and cooperation made it possible.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau and South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson were both present to honour the success of the project. “It’s not an understatement to call this one of the real gems, one of the places we value the most,” commented Charbonneau.

Luke Charbonneau

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau offered his congratulations to all who were involved with the Denny’s Dam rehabilitation project at the ribbon cutting ceremony, June 7.

When speeches came to an end the group trickled downstream for the ribbon cutting ceremony and a project overview from Sanchez Engineering Inc.'s Lead Engineer Leonardo Sanchez.

Leonardo Sanchez

Lead Engineer Leonardo Sanchez from Sanchez Engineering Inc. identified the changes made to Denny’s Dam to maintain safe operation and protection of the Great Lakes from the invasive sea lamprey. The ceremony took place on the banks of the Saugeen River in Southampton.

Dennys Dam Rehabilitation Work

Work completed at Denny's Dam. Image provided by Sanchez Engineering Inc.