Barges gone from waterfront after MNRF, City vowed to take action

The shoreline along Cornwall's waterfront is unimpeded near Boundary Road on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 after two squatting barges were removed. Left behind are a couple of particle board ramps, a broken tie-down strap and some fabric. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Two barges have been removed from Cornwall’s waterfront after the province said it would investigate the boats squatting on the shore of the St. Lawrence River near Boundary Road.

The City also said it was prepared to take legal action in the days before they were removed over the weekend of Nov. 2-3, 2019.

The City of Cornwall ordered two barge companies to remove their construction equipment from the municipal public parking lot next to Boundary Road and the companies – after several weeks – one complied. But two barges remained just off shore – a barge with a custom home and another tied to a tree – an area where the city says it doesn’t have jurisdiction.

Drake Cartier, president of Canadian Barge Builders, told Cornwall Newswatch three weeks ago that the barges were “on federal waterways. They’re allowed to be there as long as they want.” Cartier seemed to double-down, posting a comment to the CNW Facebook page. “And I’ll let it (the barge) sit for another 4 months hahaha nothing they can do.”

But the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) took notice and said it has jurisdiction over the area where the barges were squatting and would take action based on the pictures its saw from Cornwall Newswatch.

“We’re looking into it,” Senior Media Relations Officer Jolanta Kowalski told this publication.

Under the Ontario Public Lands Land, the MNRF regulates occupation of Crown land and that the act “applies to the area of the St. Lawrence River where the barges are located,” she said.

But both barges have been removed. All that’s left behind is a couple of particle board ramps, a broken tie-down strap and a piece of cloth. According to a city official, the barges were loaded on to a larger barge at the Harbour and a tug boat was pulling the larger barge.

Cornwall Recreation and Facilities Manager Jamie Fawthrop said they were prepared to take legal action. “We proceeded to seek legal opinion to determine the recourse options available to the municipality.”

Fawthrop says that’s because Canadian Barge Builders “failed to comply with the deadline stipulated” after they were given a deadline to vacate the property and agreed to it.

The barges have drawn a number of complaints from locals, upset about the eyesore on the municipal waterfront.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the City of Cornwall had a Beach Management Agreement, signed in 1983, to give the city authority over the land along the shoreline that would have dealt with this very issue. But Fawthrop says that agreement expired in the early 2000s.

“Having said this, the MNR stated that they do have regulations that restrict vessels (or barges) from mooring on Crown Land (within a watercourse) in front of private property. Enforcing this regulation was one of the recourse options that was under consideration,” Fawthrop said.

With the barges now gone, the city considers the matter resolved.