Lake association members attending the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow’s (CEWF) annual meeting received two messages loud and clear to take back to their neighbours: see how your lake fits into the big system and be proactive in managing some of the risks associated with a changing climate.
Those themes were front and centre at the annual meeting held at the fish hatchery on Sept. 9 a review detailing the work the CEWF has been focusing on now for the past 10 years.
The CEWF initially organized to advocate for integrated water management at the watershed level. Now working closely to communicate with partners such as the TSW the MNRF and the MOECC through Upper Trent Water Management Partnership (UTWMP) it represents 33 lake associations or 93 per cent of the TSW’s reservoir lake storage capacity to address topics including preferred water levels water management operations data availability flood management fisheries and environmental concerns and lake specific issues. Regular updates are communicated via the CEWF’s website email blasts lake association meetings and public functions but the annual meeting is also well-attended with lake members looking for direction and information backed with data that they can trust.
“We believe the combined technical and political partnership we bring will allow us to bring more than either separately” said Bruce McLennan CEWF vice chair.
McLennan spoke of the CEWF’s work in advocating for strategies to help manage water in times of climate change and noted that it would be challenging to mitigate the effects of climate change given the variance in weather over the same seasons but said the group was working to find solutions to combat any possibility.
“We are promoting a ‘what if’ kind of analysis – what if this becomes more of the norm shouldn’t we be changing our water management strategies to adapt to that” he said. The CEWF is looking at work being done in Muskoka including studies and seminars and engaging through the UTWMP but said property owners would need to take responsibility as well.
“In terms of climate change … we have to be part of the solution” he said. “When we hear about docksbeing taken out by rising ice levels and docks being inaccessible because of low water levels you know part of it is to change your infrastructure. Recognize that it’s going to happen and be prepared for that. Climate extremes are now normal take precautions.”
“We know that winters are getting warmer” said Ted Spence CEWF chair and professor emeritus in environmental studies at York University. “We’re going to see more rainfall events in winter which means changes in snow pack changes in winter run-off. These are going to be huge challenges. I would not want to be trying to decide when to fill reservoirs. Because if you managed this year last year we would have had a disaster. And if you managed last year for this year we would have had a disaster. It’s always day to day. We can look at risks and so on but the fact is as several people have said it’s partly up to us as individual property owners around our lakes to help manage some of those risks. Because some of the conditions we’ve seen and our members are so upset about are going to happen again. They’re going to be unavoidable. We’re just going to have to continue to recognize that.”
Chris Riddle former CEWF co-chair presented a summary of high-level analysis and conclusions drawn from a six-year study on preferred water levels that resulted in a 156-page report. The CEWF surveyed 25 lake associations in the Haliburton region to become more informed about each lake – for example that boaters wanting to get to a marina on Little Kennisis had to travel under a bridge in which access could be impacted due to water levels – and to collect information for the TSW that could be used over time.
The report findings were summarized in s ix broad conclusions: The upper preferred water levels typically correspond to the average high water levels the lower preferred water levels require attention to lake-specific constraints water conservation measures are increasingly important due to climate change the TSW needs better water management modelling tools – one capable of considering lake-specific constraint data the TSW should consider modifying the calculation of equal percentage drawdown and that an opportunity exists for five immediate incremental water management enhancements.
Those actions which the CEWF identified could be implemented by the TSW are to review the “extent” of the winter-set levels on each lake be prepared to make minor adjustments in an effort to mitigate lake-specific navigation and access issues based on constraints identified by lake associations review the timing of the drawdown on a sub-watershed-basin basis consider protecting smaller lakes from extreme draw-down in cases where residents are affected more negatively than the TSW benefits and monitor reductions in leakage resulting from the replacement of Dam No. 1 at Trenton.
Riddle said the full report could be downloaded and read on the dock and that it’s not a closed file so the initiative is still open for those who would like to add their own input.
“It’s really worth taking a look at that to see how your lake compares to other lakes and … compare that winter set to the average winter level” said Spence. “You can learn a great deal from just looking at the graphs in that report in terms of how your lake fits in.”
Another area on the CEWF’s priority list is to monitor the Trent Severn’s capital works program and Jewel Cunningham director of Ontario Waterways Unit Parks Canada presented federal infrastructure initiatives being undertaken by the governmental agency. To date $615 million of projects for the Trent-Severn Waterway have been announced $58 million of that in projects within the Haliburton sector including 11 major projects involving dam replacements or major rehabilitations and smaller scale concrete repairs. The Kennisis Lake dam replacement and concrete repairs of Little Bob Lake dam and Halls Lake dam have been completed thus far.
Representatives of the CEWF acknowledged the excellent working relationship they have with the TSW noting it was easy for them to relay information from the TSW to CEWF members. Still some in the audience questioned the TSW not having real-time information about stop log management online.
“Folks try to interpret stop log information in a way that is relevant to them and so what one person thinks a 12-inch stop log might do at any given time is different than what another person thinks a 12-inch stop log might do at any given time and it’s probably vastly different in terms of what it’s going to mean in terms of water level changes so we don’t want to get into the area of providing information out there that gets interpreted and misread” said Cunningham. “The variability there is really huge and that interpretation that one log out means 12 inches off the lake is really not an accurate perception.”
Spence agreed and said he has learned there are too many variables involved with stop log information for him as a property owner to be able to manage it.
“I used to believe I wanted to know every time they operated logs at my dam too but then I started to take my hydraulics course … and came to really realize this complex relationship” he said. “I think that it’s a bit unrealistic that we as lake people can interpret the number of logs. I used to think I could. I’m convinced now that the forecast plus the knowledge they’re meeting every morning to monitor how fast levels are changing on each of our lakes and then responding with their teams in the field is a lot better way to collect that information.”
He said it was more useful for property owners to focus on their own space and what they could to do react to a changing environment.
“The complexity of this system to manage 17 reservoirs on one stream where they then pass through an urban area as they get down towards the bottom – people need to not just think about their lakes they need to understand where their lake sits in the system” he said urging lake association members to relay that information. “Get people to think about not just their lake but where their lake fits into the big picture and that’s never been more true than this year.”
Presentation materials from the CEWF 2017 annual meeting as well as water level forecasts archived information and further resources are posted on the CEWF web site at cewf.ca.