By Chad Ingram
The Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations is advocating for the creation of a county-wide shoreline protection bylaw mandating naturalized shorelines.
CHA board chairman Paul MacInnes gave county councillors a detailed presentation stressing the benefits of natural shorelines during a March 27 meeting.
“The lakes are the foundation of Haliburton County” MacInnes said noting that everything the community is built on – cottaging tourism real estate its jobs – is ultimately tied to its nearly 600 lakes.
Natural shorelines – those that are largely untouched include native plant species and are free of manmade hazards such as lawns retaining walls and docks – have a direct bearing on lake health. They prevent erosion provide habitat for wildlife such as fish frogs butterflies and benthics and filter pollutants such as phosphorous. Phosphorous is public enemy No. 1 when it comes to lake health in Haliburton County and is the culprit behind blue-green algae blooms.
When large enough algae blooms not only make lakes unsafe for swimming but also in severe cases render them effectively dead.
“Water quality in any lake with less than 75 per cent natural shoreline is headed down” MacInnes said.
Throughout Haliburton County 48 per cent of the shoreline is natural.
“The question is how much time do we have?” MacInnes said adding that climate change is changing the rules quickly in a way that cannot be fully understood.
According to the Canadian Real Estate Association one algae bloom on a lake can reduce property values by as much as 30 per cent and MacInnes said there are lakes that have had repeated algae blooms where property values have declined by as much as half.
There were eight reported sightings of algae blooms in Haliburton County last summer with one which later dissipated confirmed by the MOE in Algonquin Highlands.
“We have lakes that are less susceptible and more susceptible to algae blooms” MacInnes said.
He’d done some calculations and said that if 40 per cent of the lakes in the county experienced a 30 per cent drop in property values that would equate to $732 million in lost assessment.
“You don’t come to county council unless you have done something to help yourself in my mind” MacInnes said as he reviewed the host of programming regarding lake health septic systems and natural shorelines the CHA has undertaken during its decade of existence.
“We can’t reach everybody” he said adding that of the 587 lakes in the county about 100 of them have lake associations.
MacInnes who noted he was preaching to the converted with regard to county councillors said new property owners in particular are often unaware of the negative implications that shoreline alteration has on lake health. While the county has a tree-cutting bylaw that prohibits the cutting down of trees within a 30-metre distance of lakes MacInnes said some property owners will leave the trees but remove all of the other important native vegetation from shoreline areas.
“If we lose the lakes we lose our ability to pay for our other priorities” MacInnes told councillors adding “There are no good reasons not to do this.”
“You have given us some stark bits of information” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and Haliburton County Warden Liz Danielsen.
Council received MacInnes’s report for information.