TSW feeder lakes need unified voice: CEWF
By Chad Ingram
Greater attention to trout spawning and loon nesting are some goals for the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow, but first the organization is determined to create a new group that will speak in one, unified voice on behalf of all stakeholders of the Trent Severn Waterway feeder system in Haliburton County.
The CEWF held an annual meeting at the Haliburton Fish Hatchery Sept. 12.
“Our main objective remains to see integrated water management across all of the Trent watershed,” said chairman Ted Spence, emphasizing the organization has maintained its dialogue with officials from the TSW, having regular conference calls and with its water management engineer, as well as the director of Ontario Waterways.
The CEWF believes the residents and stakeholders of the reservoir and flow-through lakes that feed the Trent-Severn canal should have a voice equal to other stakeholders of the system in the way water is managed.
Water levels on the feeder lakes throughout Haliburton County fluctuate throughout the year as water is drawn to feed the canal.
There are 35 reservoir lakes in the area, 17 of them in the Gull River basin, 13 in the Burnt River basin and five among what are considered the southern feeder lakes.
“More than 70 per cent of all the water that passes through Lakefield comes from the reservoirs,” Spence said, adding this figure grows to 90 per cent during the summertime.
The CEWF’s biggest initiative this year, one it has already begun, is meeting with municipal councils seeking support resolutions for the creation of new group that will represent feeder lake stakeholders and be able to sit at the proverbial table with government agencies and stakeholder groups.
“Without the political link, we can’t really sit at the table with the conservation authorities and the TSW and MNR and talk about the big picture in the way we hope we can,” Spence said.
Unlike other parts of the watershed, Haliburton County is not represented by a conservation authority.
The proposed group is “not a full conservation authority, but something that will allow us to have a voice,” Spence said.
The CEWF would provide the expertise – Spence, for example, is a professor emeritus from York University who served 10 years as dean of environmental studies – and would look to councillors to provide the required political clout.
Reps from the CEWF have already visited three of Haliburton County’s lower-tier councils, receiving support resolutions from Minden Hills and Algonquin Highlands, and Dysart et al working on a resolution.
They will also visit Highlands East council, the upper-tier Haliburton County council (which they hope will take the political reins) and two townships to the south of the county.
The CEWF was also been in touch with the federal candidates for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock and Peterborough-Kawartha, and will be looking to work the new MPs for the ridings once they are elected on Oct. 19.
This season, levels started out low, due in part to a smaller-than-usual snow-pack.
The smaller snow-pack, TSW water management engineer Dave Ness explained to attendees, was ultimately caused by the Great Lakes icing over more than usual, as the increased icing meant fewer snow squalls throughout the region.
“No year is exactly the same and Mother Nature is pretty good at throwing us a curve ball every now and then,” Ness said.
“May was above average temperatures, and that has some pretty serious repercussions.”
Ness said a warm May meant more water being lost to the atmosphere and combined with the small snow-pack, it left levels in the system quite low.
“June made up for it,” he said. “We got the water we were looking for in June.”
That rainfall topped reservoirs – with the exception of Eels and Crystal lakes – up to where they needed to be.
Ness said the TSW tries to mitigate its operations throughout September, as to not leave trout spawn exposed.
However, it does work toward a gradual drawn-down that has reservoir and flow-through lakes at their winter levels for Oct. 15.
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re pulling four logs at once,” he said.
The CEWF is hoping to attain more information about trout spawning on individual lakes in the future, so that water management can be more uniquely tailored to each water body.
Some lakes, Kennisis, for example, have trout that spawn deeper than trout in other lakes.
“There’s more thinking that needs to be done on trout spawning,” said vice-chairman Bruce McClennan.
The CEWF is also hoping to help the loon population, their nests sometimes getting flooding by rising water levels in the springtime.
As McClennan pointed out, the loons will nest again when this happens, but this can be problematic since the second round of young may not be mature enough to fly south when winter comes.
What the CEWF is asking the TSW to do is target its maximum reservoirs levels for about May 20, instead of early June.
“This would mean we wouldn’t see water levels above that . . . and the loon nests wouldn’t be in danger,” McClennan said.
Welcome news for the TSW this year was the June announcement of $285 million in funding for upgrades to the century-old system.
Among major projects are the replacement of the Kennisis Lake dam in its entirety (construction is now underway), as well restorations of dams at Coboconk, Mississauga Lake dam and Horseshoe Lake dam in Minden Hills.
There will be concrete work on several other dams, some 43 projects in all.
Assessments still need to completed, but those projects could potentially entail work on dams at Drag, Little Bob, Big Bob, Halls, Percy, Gull, Gooderham, Eagle and Hawk lakes, among others in the county.