By Chad Ingram
The phrase "water levels management" will likely cause many pairs of eyeballs to immediately glaze over.
And that’s OK. That’s a perfectly normal reaction.
However, it’s a subject of great importance in this community and last week, a proverbial stride was taken that may turn the water tables for county residents tired of fluctuating levels on area water bodies part of the feeder system for the Trent-Severn Waterway.
Haliburton County councillors have voted to join forces with the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow to create a new organization to speak in one, unified voice on behalf of area stakeholders.
Historically, it seems to be the voices further down the system and on the Trent-Severn canal itself that are most easily heard by the operator of the system, Parks Canada.
Part of the reason for that could be that Haliburton County, unlike other areas that feed the Trent basin, is not represented by a conservation authority.
While the new organization will not be a conservation authority, it may be able to fulfill some of the functions of one.
For example, flood planning.
Anyone who remembers the 2013 Minden flood, which essentially shut the village for three weeks and damaged many area cottages, knows how badly this is needed.
The idea behind the new organization is to combine the technical expertise of the CEWF executive (members range from a former dean of environmental studies at York University to the county’s former chief administrative officer) with the clout and access to politicians at higher levels of government that county councillors possess.
There have been, for decades, committees dedicated to mitigating fluctuating water levels in the area and most of them have not made much of a wake.
However, this new organization seems more well-armed than its predecessors.
Its success would not mean that levels on the reservoir and flow-through lakes (RAFT lakes, as they’re called) would cease to fluctuate, since that is of course impossible.
For more than a century now, they have been part of the system that feeds the canal. Without the system, the canal could not exist, and without the canal, made possible through a series of dams, many of the lakes in the system would not be lakes at all.
However, some fine-tuning in water management operations could mean that residents on Boshkung and Maple lakes don’t have to worry about their boats getting beached in late summer.
It could mean better protection of trout spawning areas and loon nesting habitat.
It could mean reduced instances of flooding and flooding that is less severe.
There are social, economic and ecological benefits to be had.
County council has made the right decision in its collaboration with the CEWF.
Good luck to members of the new group as they seek to make changes that will benefit us all.