Lake Kagawong committee holds positive meeting with Oakville Enterprises

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KAGAWONG – With communications in place between Oakville Enterprises and the Lake Kagawong Standing Advisory Committee (LKSAC), and education having been provided by the company on the rule curve at a meeting held recently was deemed positive on all fronts in relation to issues that have been raised in the past. 

“I think this meeting has been really fruitful, and time well spent,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson. “There is no doubt this committee and the company is committed to work together to resolve issues that have arose over the years. I think we’re on the right track.”

Mr. Anderson provided some background to representatives of all the groups on hand, which included the LKSAC, Billings Township, Gordon/Barrie Island, Central Manitoulin, Action Kagawong Watershed Association, Oakville Enterprises and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (neither the Ministry of Environment Energy and Climate or M’Chigeeng First Nation had representatives at the meeting). The committee has been in place for several years, but had not met in about two years. 

“As a result of all of this and issues and action that was not taken on the water levels last year (by Oakville Enterprises), we saw really low water levels on the lake last summer,” said Mayor Anderson. He pointed out part of the reason for the low water levels was mother nature with drought-like conditions last summer being a factor. As well, he noted that the Lake Kagawong Resource Committee has been formed to act as an advisory body for the Water Management Plan agreement. 

“But at the end of the day we need better information on the rule curve of the lake,” said Mayor Anderson, “and make sure the company is working within the guidelines of the agreement so that businesses and residents on the lake can enjoy this water source and make sure that reporting is being done accurately and in a timely way, as well as providing property owners a voice.”

“It sounds like the water management plan and the permit to take water have not been given a fair chance to be in place and work,” said Bob Clifford, a member of AKWA at the meeting with Bill Touzel, a consultant for Oakville Enterprises and company representatives. “There has been no maintenance, administration and we don’t even see any records of the previous meeting of the committee. Over the years things have been let go and the lake has not been given the attention it needs.”

“We agree completely,” stated Mr. Touzel. “When we are talking about the terms of reference and minutes of meetings and the issues relating to the water levels, Oakville acknowledges all of these concerns. That is why I am here today and Shaun (McCaughan, chief operating officer Energy Infrastructure Services Connected with Oakville Enterprise) engaged me to carry out this work. We can do better than last summer. A big part of this is knowing what the regulations are and what can and can’t be done.”

Mr. Touzel detailed how the rule curve works and how it operates. He explained the Kagawong watershed area is 223 square kilometres in size and Lake Kagawong makes up 55 square kilometres of it. He said the size of the lake in comparison to the entire watershed is small. Given the size of the lake watershed, “it means that first of all it is referred to as being flashy; if we get a couple of inches of rain, the levels can go up quickly. And in dry spells where there is no rain, the levels can go down quickly as well.” He told the meeting the company operates 18 inches between the top and bottom elevation levels during the year.

“The rule curve itself is the entire area between the two lines,” said Mr. Touzel. “At peak freshette, which occurs now, we are obligated to figure out when the peak level occurs and the level two weeks later.”

However, Mr. Touzel noted that last summer, around July 10 the levels went below the minimum level by a couple of centimeters because staff was not watching it closely enough. This continued and the plant was operated until July 25, a couple of centimeters below the required level. “There is no question we were operating out of compliance with the water management plan. We intend not to do this again.” After the plant was shut down there continued to be a steep decline in the levels, not from generating power but drought-like conditions through evaporation, he noted.

The meeting encouraged Oakville Enterprises to maintain the levels on the higher side of the scale and to determine the level at the start of freshette and use that level.

The water levels can rise and fall quickly, agreed Mr. Clifford. “What is needed is someone to monitor them constantly.”

Mr. Touzel pointed out the levels are now looked at daily.

“The concern we have is with high and low water levels,” said Mayor Anderson. “The level today (two weeks ago) is as high as it can go without there being property damage. Any higher and we will see standing water on people’s property.”

Mr. Touzel said the dam is wide open and the plant is running as much water it can pass through the plan as it can at that time. 

“When the levels are low our businesses are affected, and private residents can’t use their property or boats and docks,” said Councillor Bryan Barker. “The bottom line is people can’t enjoy their property. We need the dam to be managed by Oakville; once the water is gone we can’t get it back.”

Mr. Touzel pointed out the company has engaged Dejan Kovacev of Seven Rock Technology to operate the dam, take debris out and operate the water level gauges and that more attention to detail will be paid and there will be better communication involved. 

He pointed out the other causes of water decreasing include flow through the dam and over the falls, leakage and evaporation. 

“Assuming global warming is real, and we continue to have drought like conditions in the summer, if we can’t fix the problems or eliminate them we are going to have to look at alternatives,” said Mayor Anderson. 

Mr. Touzel explained that Oakville is a business for profit entity of the town of Oakville. “As Bob (Clifford) said, everything is in place, now all that needs to take place is that everything is monitored and managed properly, the dam is managed and the rule curve is at the higher end and then we can see what happens. As long as we have a working relationship together I’m confident we can resolve the concerns.”

It was agreed on by those in attendance that the standing advisory committee will meet in April and October annually when water levels are cat a crucial point.