Lake Manitou Association members say ministry must correct L. Manitou flow

SANDFIELD—The Lake Manitou Area Association (LMAA) as an organization needs to have a voice at the table with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) in regards to having something done to correct fluctuating lake levels and the lack of fish found in Lake Manitou and Manitou River. Several members voiced their concerns at the LMAA 25th annual general meeting held this past Saturday in Sandfield.

“Last year this ongoing issue came up again, and a committee was supposed to be set up to look at contacting the MNRF and looking at site development and carrying out a study on water quality and levels,” stated Brenda Eddington. “From my standpoint this organization is designed to work to make sure the level and quality of the lake is preserved, as well as its ecosystem. I can’t understand why we don’t have a voice and can’t partner with the MNRF in looking at what can be done to improve the lake levels, the lack of fish and where they (MNRF) are going in the future for the lake.”

“We used to have a good relationship with the MNRF, but Paul Methner has now retired, and we have lost our connection,” said Mike Costigan, president of the LMAA.

“The point is, these subjects have been brought up for the past five years at our annual meetings and it had been agreed we need to form a committee to meet at the table with the MNRF, who are supposed to be taking care of the lake,” said Ms. Eddington. “We have very low water levels now and very high levels in the spring; because of this we have shoreline that is caving in, silt, not water, flowing to the river and there are very few fish around, with no canopies in the water or holes for fish to escape to.” 

“Sorry if I’m emotionally charged on this issue but my family has had a huge presence in preserving the lake over the years. Something is very wrong with Lake Manitou. It’s sick,” stated Ms. Eddington. “The lake is sick and dying. Picnic Island is being destroyed. The water was up almost as high as the MTO bridge this spring and now it is very, very low, so fish can’t even swim through.”

“I can attest to what Brenda is saying, especially on the water levels,” stated Peter Hutchinson. “In the spring  the water in the lake was up to my chest but as of June 27 the last log was put in Lake Manitou by the MNRF and now there is no or very little water flow over the dam. The water flow has been basically shut off. You will see a little seepage in the logs, very little. Lake Manitou is being eroded every day of every week. On my aunt’s property, the water is now three inches from getting into her house.”

“That area was a swamp as far back as 30 years ago,” said Paul Moffatt, LMAA vice-president.

Mr. Hutchinson stated, “The issue is, when will the MNRF do something? When they put the logs in at the dam, there is no water going to my home and many other residents, and when I contacted them I was told maybe I should be looking for another source of water. He said the MNRF can and does divert water out of the lake for their hatchery fish ponds on a 24/7 basis and that there is a nine foot draft distance from the lake. A balance needs to be in place so everyone benefits from the lake, but we are dealing with an organization that is not accountable to anyone. They basically shut off the whole water stream or allow it to get out of control depending on the time of year it is.”

“We should have a voice as an organization and bring our concerns forward,” said Ms. Eddington. 

Mr. Hutchinson said the MNRF says it has guidelines that it follows but when he has requested a copy he has been denied this information. “In January my dad’s water line froze as it did for other residents. You could even see frogs dead on the shoreline. Why is this allowed to continue? Every year we bring up the same issue on the lake levels and we get nowhere with them. We all pay taxes. They (MNRF) should be held accountable. I can’t understand what the point is of us donating funds to Manitoulin Streams to restore Manitou River if the actions taken by the MNRF destroy this work. Four years ago, four foot high cedar trees were put in, but they are all gone now. I have asked MNRF representatives,‘what is wrong with taking one or two inches out of the Lake to feed the river?’ It would make a difference.”

“Are we going to allow (the river) to dry up completely and destroy all the fish?” asked Mr. Hutchinson. 

The high water levels is destroying the shorelines and even making oak trees that have been around for 100 years, vulnerable, said another LMAA member.

“I have dealt with the MNRF before,” said Sherri Cooper. “They are impossible to deal with. We need to be diligent, write letters and make our voices heard.”

Three years ago the LMAA as an organization agreed to form a committee and meet with the MNRF to look at all these issues but it hasn’t taken place, said Ms. Eddington. 

Ms. Eddington explained, “I live here full-time and starting three years ago, large patches of earth on my shorelines have been moved out of the way by the high water levels. The shoreline is being eroded.”

Mr. Hutchinson explained, “The MNRF will leave every log in the dam into March, then they open the dam up and the water is over my head. Then before July 4 every log is put in so there is  no water flow. Between March and July the water level fluctuates at least four to five feet. There needs be a balance in place so everyone can benefit from the water.”

It was suggested by one of the LMAA members, “The water level monitoring should be run by someone locally on the island rather than from the MNRF in Sudbury who don’t have as much experience on the lake.”

Despite several attempts the Recorder was unable to reach an MNRF representative for comment prior to this week’s press deadline.