SANDFIELD—The Lake Manitou Area Association is encouraging members to bring concerns forward on water levels and other issues on the lake and dam, so this information can be collated and submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and local politicians, for action to be taken on the concerns.
“In regards to the dam and lake levels, this has been an ongoing issue,” stated Mary Lochead at the LMAA annual general meeting held last Saturday. “I don’t see a solution so far; what we need to do is put together a committee and meet with the MNRF to try and get them to rethink their guidelines (for the watershed).” She pointed out, “it is not the people who monitor and do work on the dam/lake that are the problem; they are only following orders.”
“It is the MNRF guidelines for the watershed that need to be changed,” stated Ms. Lochead, who suggested the committee ask for a public meeting to be held with the ministry, “where members of the general public could meet with them to look at solutions.”
Paul Moffatt, LMAA president, told the meeting, “no doubt you are all wondering about the lake levels, the problem with erosion of banks and the recent discovery of dead fish. Last fall, we had a meeting with the MNRF and the new man in charge, Paul Leale. It was a telephone meeting and I’m still waiting for feedback on our concerns. They (MNRF) are still going with the (watershed) guidelines that were set in 1991, and so far there has been no indication that they are going to change the guidelines any time soon.”
Brenda Edington said at last year’s AGM, “four of us were to form a committee to look after investigating the concerns with water levels in the river and lake. And at last year’s meeting there were lots of reports of high water, dislodged trees and erosion of the (shoreline) banks. And this year we are seeing more prevalent destruction. The water levels are being dictated by the MNRF and they won’t listen to our concerns. I agree with Mary, we need a separate committee to oversee what is going on and to call on the MNRF to meet with us to discuss the issues and try to come up with solutions.”
Mr. Moffat suggested that if a public meeting with the MNRF was to be called for, it should be called by the municipalities that abut the lake, as they would provide the necessary clout to get action and solutions in place.
“We could use our (LMAA) website and start a discussion forum for people to put forward their concerns, issues and questions,” said Ms. Edington.
“I think it’s a good idea to have an area on our website where people can put forward their concerns and issues,” said Wendy Gordon. “I’ve heard some very strong testimony from local residents on the flooding on their property. “We have to keep hammering at this to get any action taken.”
Several members said that the MNRF guidelines for the lake, river and dam need to be flexible enough to provide for solutions when there are changes in weather conditions that affect the lake levels, for instance.
“It’s not a new thing this year; my shoreline has been steadily eroding for several years,” said Ms. Edington. “It is noticeable and the high water levels are more noticeable this year than they have been the past 25 years.”
“If you’re trying to get the MNRF to do anything, you are beating a dead horse,” stated Ken Stewart. “If we want anything done, we need to go through our local MPP. I think we have to go political.”
“The ministry (MNRF) is only concerned about maintaining the water levels, minimum/maximum up or down nine inches,” said Mr. Moffatt.
Carol Sheppard, who has owned a home on Lake Manitou for 50 years, said five years ago water levels were down and this year they are up. However, the levels have gone down 10 inches since May.
“Bombard the website with concerns and then send this on to the MNRF and our MPP,” said one LMAA member.
Mr. Moffatt said he would be in contact with Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha to outline some of the concerns raised at the meeting. However, “I don’t know what influence he will have; the current government took $160 million out of the MNRF budget. It’s to the point with cuts having been made that the voicemail at the Sudbury (MNRF) office has been cut out.”
And, Ms. Lochead said if the MNRF removes or adds logs at the Sandfield dam, they have to get employees from Sudbury to carry out this work.
“Since Paul Methner retired we don’t have anyone locally with the expertise to carry out the work needed,” said Mr. Moffatt. “And they are still working with guidelines from 1991 that need to be updated.”
It was pointed out by one LMAA member that climate change can’t be ignored either. “They need to look at guidelines being made more flexible to when they’re at high and low water levels and to deal with extreme weather conditions.”
“I think there is consensus that we want quicker action taken by the ministry in maintaining the minimum and maximum water levels when it is needed,” said Mr. Moffatt.
The LMAA members passed a motion that will see a place on the association’s website dedicated to LMAA members having the opportunity to post concerns, issues and questions. All this information will be put together and submitted to the ministry and a copy sent to local politicians as well, calling for a meeting and action to be taken to resolve the issues.