Planning board says more data required before development on Lake Kagawong would be considered

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GORE BAY – The Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) says that they need a lot more evidence than what has been provided so far before any development could be granted on Lake Kagawong due to issues with water quality.

“We need a lot more data to prove there is a problem,” stated Ian Anderson, a member of the MPB at a meeting last week. “That’s my opinion,” he said, noting a letter the board received from Carrie Hutchinson of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (and addressed to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing). “In the letter it states there is limited water quality data available from Lake Kagawong; however, the data available suggests that there are existing water quality issues with the lake. What they are saying is that they don’t really know much at this time.”

“They provide little information or evidence that there are issues with the lake,” said Mr. Anderson.

Theresa Carlisle, secretary-treasurer of the MPB, had explained at the meeting that they had received a letter sent from Carrie Hutchinson of MOECP, to Kay Grant, Planner with MMAH, on data and recommendations regarding the lakeshore development capacity and Lake Kagawong. “In response to your request for information regarding the development capacity status for Lake Kagawong on Manitoulin Island, the (MOECP) has reviewed its files and other information available including available practices, policy and legislation. As a result of this review, we have the following recommendations which should be considered in light of any future request for development on the shores of Lake Kagawong.”

“Information and Data: there is limited water quality data available from Lake Kagawong; however, the data available suggests that there are existing water quality issues with the lake. Therefore, the ministry recommends that a cautious approach be taken towards any additional development on Lake Kagawong in consideration of the following: there is considerable lakeshore development (in excess of 120 cottages plus an unknown number of resort facilities along the shoreline of the lake), as well as other activities on the lake; the calcareous soils that make up the Island provide increased mobility of nutrients, namely phosphorus, that may more readily migrate to the adjacent lakes from shoreline developments than in areas with non-calcareous soils; the lake hosts a population of lake whitefish. In order to protect the natural function of the lake it is necessary to ensure suitable habitat is present for this species throughout all seasons. As well, it was indicated that dissolved oxygen levels in the lake are a concern. “Late summer dissolved oxygen profiles from 2007 and 2008 show a steep decline in oxygen values at the thermocline with anoxic conditions in the hypolimnion; the oxygen depletion within and below the thermocline was rapid and complete. Dissolved oxygen profiles from 2014 show a less steep decline at the thermocline, and hypoxic conditions in the bottom layer. The profiles from 2007-2014 demonstrate that well-oxygenated cold water habitat in Lake Kagawong for species such as lake whitefish is very limited during the summer.

“It was recommended that any new application for additional shoreline development on Lake Kagawong should include new water quality data, specifically total phosphorus, and that it be collected for successive years,” said Ms. Carlisle. However, she noted the Lakeshore Capacity Handbook uses a model that was developed from studies on small lakes located within the Canadian Shield area of Ontario and is not intended to be used for off-Shield areas such as Manitoulin Island.” 

Ms. Carlisle said, “I would like to see a motion passed by the board to request additional information and data being provided.”

Mr. Anderson pointed out, “there was work done on Lake Kagawong two years ago, and the whitefish population is very good, as is the case for other species including for example walleye, salmon and bass. I am definitely not convinced there is a problem with water quality. There is no evidence.”
“A professor at Queen’s University carried out core sampling of lake bottoms on Manitoulin and the results show the lakes have been doing the same things then as they are today,” stated MPB member Ken Noland. “And phosphorus levels are dropping and they have no data that says there are problems because of the phosphorus levels. Without any evidence we can throw this letter in the garbage can.”

“People who fish in Lake Kagawong have told me this may be the best year they have seen in years,” said Lee Hayden.

The ministry recommendation also indicates, “it would be beneficial for the next version of the District of Manitoulin Official Plan to include policies to encourage better implementation of management practices that protect lake water quality during shoreline development. Actions such as requiring a minimum 30 metre setback for structures and septic systems, a recommended enhanced minimum lot frontage (e.g. frontage of 60 metres or more), maintaining a minimum natural vegetation buffer of 15-30 metres, applying best management practices for stormwater management on individual lots, and the use of erosion and sediment controls during construction.

The planning board passed a motion that the secretary-treasurer be requested to draft a letter to be sent to MMAH and MECP with the board’s concerns that additional information is required to determine the fate of additional development on Lake Kagawong and that the draft letter will be reviewed at the next meeting of the board.