By Chad Ingram
Published Feb. 28 2017
There is not sufficient natural shoreline within Haliburton County not by a long shot according to the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations (CHA).
“This is a very preliminary report” CHA chairman Paul MacInnes told Haliburton County councillors as he presented findings from the coalition’s shoreline improvement project during a Feb. 22 meeting.
Also called the Love Your Lake program during the past three summers the CHA has hired evaluators – typically university students in the environmental sciences – to travel lakes by boat assessing properties based on numerous factors including development setbacks docks slope invasive species retaining walls etc.
The results of those evaluations are then sent confidentially to property owners with suggestions on how to better naturalize their shorelines.
An ecological report card of sorts.
Natural shorelines – those which 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 phosporous.
Phosporous is public enemy No. 1 when it comes to lake health in Haliburton County and is the culprit behind algae blooms. When large enough algae blooms not only make lakes unsafe for swimming but in severe cases render them effectively dead.
“Too much phosphorous in your lake and you’re likely to get an algae bloom” MacInnes said adding that 95 per cent of phosphorous in county lakes comes from septic tanks which is why proper care of septic tanks is one of the major concerns of the CHA.
While algae blooms have up to this point not been a major problem in Haliburton County MacInnes told councillors there are lakes in Manitoba that are unswimmable in the summertime and some in Muskoka that cannot be swam in during the month of August.
In areas affected by algae blooms “property values have fallen 40 to 50 per cent” he said. “We don’t want that to happen here.”
Sometimes called “the ribbon of life” the scientific community seems to agree that a minimum setback band of at least 30 metres of naturalized shoreline around lakes is key to their health.
At least 75 per cent of a lake’s shoreline should have this naturalized 30-metre buffer in order to prevent lake health from declining.
And the Haliburton County lakes evaluated through the Love Your Lake program are not meeting that target.
During the past three summers 47 lakes in the county have been assessed through the program which is ongoing and will resume this summer.
Many of those 47 lakes are the larger ones in the county such as Kawagama Kennisis and Kashagawigamog. Combined their studied shorelines represent about 20 per cent of the total shoreline in Haliburton County which is home to some 600 lakes.
Of the lakes assessed so far 92 per cent of them are not meeting the 75 per cent naturalized shoreline mark. MacInnes said the average overall is 48 per cent.
“Far far too low” he said.
Not only is there a lack of understanding among many waterfront property owners about the importance of natural shorelines MacInnes said there is also a lack of knowledge in the supply community – that is nurseries and landscaping companies that understand the importance of using native species.
MacInnes said that among companies doing naturalized shorelines there is now a local waiting list.
The CHA also has some demonstration sites which residents who may have questions can go and visit.
“The demonstration sites answer those questions and soothe those concerns” MacInnes said. “How could the county help? We don’t know. But we’re asking you look at it with your staff. When my property looked like it did I have no idea there was anything wrong with that.”
As part of his presentations on shoreline health – MacInnes estimates he’s given 100 of them to lake associations in recent years – he uses a picture of his own property from a number of years ago with a manicured green lawn extending to the lake’s shore.
Minden Hills Reeve and Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin wondered if people had actually been modifying their behaviour as the result of receiving shoreline evaluations during the past few years.
“It’s very dependent on the individual lake associations” MacInnes replied adding that some are more organized than others.
Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey suggested that the county’s lower-tier townships send out an information pamphlet with this year’s tax bills an idea that other members of council seemed to agree with.
Fearrey also suggested the townships should be looking at some kind of program that would offer a financial incentive for waterfront property owners who complete re-naturalization of their shoreline.
County council is scheduled to review its tree-clearing bylaw – that prohibits the cutting of trees within 30 metres of the shoreline – and Devolin suggested that perhaps additional measures could be built into it.
The CHA also has a program known as Lake Protector Realtors where local real estate agents take pledges they will encourage new waterfront property owners to re-naturalize their shorelines among other environmentally friendly activities.
For more information about the CHA and its work visit www.cohpoa.org.