Billings councillor proposes another water committee

KAGAWONG—A Billings township councillor is proposing that a separate committee of council members, including Oakville Power (Enterprises) and members of the public, should be formed to monitor water levels on the Kagawong River and inform members of the public on questions they raise.

“I don’t want to have the issue of water levels left at the table,” stated Councillor Bryan Barker at a council meeting last week. “I would like to see this be an independent committee to the Kagawong River Standing Advisory committee.”

Mr. Barker explained there is currently an existing Kagawong Water Management Plan in place (2008) that identified six objectives of this committee and includes the advisory committee, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Oakville Enterprises, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ministry of Environment, the Action Kagawong Watershed Advisory committee, M’Chigeeng, Billings, Central Manitoulin and Allan West. This plan is administered by provincial bodies.

“The standing advisory committee has a lot on its plate,” said Councillor Barker. “I’m proposing that a separate committee of Oakville Power and Billings Township be created. The Standing Advisory Committee that is in place is geared toward the health of the lake. But, we as a township have a responsibility, since we have a contract with Oakville (Power), to make sure the contract we have with them is being upheld, and obviously based on this past summer it hasn’t been upheld for a while, with Oakville drawing water over the rule curve, inoperable water gauges and no monitoring of water levels being done as it should be. The onus is on us as a municipality to make sure the levels are being monitored and maintained. By having the levels monitored regularly and maintained, and the contract is being honoured, our residents and all our businesses including those on the water can enjoy the river.”

“I’m proposing a committee be set up to keep tabs on the water levels, becoming better educated ourselves in how the rule curve for instance works, and be able to answer questions from residents,” said Councillor Barker. “And we need to keep residents involved and to keep council informed and use expertise that is presented to us in all of this.”

“When I was campaigning in the election, one of the things that I heard first and foremost from many people is that they can’t enjoy the lake or get their boats to docks because of the low water levels,” said Councillor Barker. “No doubt mother nature has played a role, in that we had a hot, dry summer, but there is a lot more to this issue than just that.”

A discussion on this issue came up at the first regular meeting of the newly-elected municipal council last week. 

While the issue and forming a committee was deferred to a future council meeting to set a terms of reference and have more work done on it, council members agreed with Councillor Barker’s proposal.

“I am 100 percent in favour of this, and we need someone on this committee that lives on the water,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack, to which Councillor Michael Hunt was in agreement. “And someone who lives on and is knowledgeable about the lake should be on it (committee) as well,” said Councillor Alkenbrack.

It was agreed that council needs to continue to be part of the standing advisory committee as well, which, it was pointed out, has not met for two years. “We as a municipality need to get a handle on and have control of all of this,” said Councillor Barker.