TSW grilled over flood damage to local lakes
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | October 26, 2017
Long before spring flooding in Minden, Tim Currie said he knew his property was at risk.
The Gull Lake resident says the lake level wasn’t nearly as low as it has been in past autumns.
In fact, the water level was only about a foot below his fixed dock. It’s usually two to three feet below, he said.
“Last winter when the ice froze, I knew I was in trouble because there wasn’t a lot of space between the dock and the ice. In the spring, the winds blow the ice around and this year was significant.
The winds push the ice six to eight feet up the shoreline. The ice lifted my fixed dock (which is 60’ x 12’) 18 inches in the air. The ice broke metal supports and wood stringers. It cost me over $1,000 to get temporary repairs and another $3-4,000 in repairs at the end of the season,” Currie told The Highlander.
“Lake life has changed and it’s important that we feel confident in those who manage water levels and ultimately impact our valued investments,” Currie said.
Former Minden Hills Reeve Barb Reid says there are still more questions than answers when it comes to the Trent-Severn Waterway’s (TSWs) role in the spring flooding, and what she perceives to be “inconsistency in water release planning.”
Currie is her neighbour and she said he’s not alone in terms of ice damage.
“The ice has never reached that height before. There were many reports of ice damage this spring on Gull Lake,” she said.
Reid added, “these inconsistencies have been going on for years now and it’s just not right for our politicians (local and federal) to hide behind the ‘climate change’ excuse.”
In her opinion, rainfall events in April, 2013 and May, 2017 “were not that unique. What has changed is the lake levels in the fall … they are too high and therefore there is limited capacity to handle the spring melt.”
She said Gull Lake hasn’t frozen solid in the past two winters but has major cracks which are evidence of water level changes in winter. She said due to the inconsistent ice, there are fewer ice fishermen and she no longer walks on the lake in winter.
Jewel Cunningham, director Ontario waterways, said that “in October 2016, water levels on the lower Gull River Watershed (Gull Lake, Horseshoe Lake and Twelve Mile Lake) were at their normal winter set. As the fall continued, drought conditions resulted in low inflows, causing many residents and cottagers to experience issues with their water intakes. In response to this situation, flows were gradually increased for a time and then reset to winter levels by the end of the year. A late February melt combined with rain resulted in high flows, increasing water levels underneath the ice, in turn raising the ice,” she said.
She said that was followed by historically high precipitation leading to widespread flooding.
“Water levels and flows can and do fluctuate for a number of reasons and dam adjustments to re-balance water levels and flows may cause lakes to rise or drop while moving towards targets. It’s a complex process that takes into consideration storage capacity of the lakes on the system, timing of fish spawning, requirements for flood mitigation, typical fall and winter precipitation levels, downstream typography including constrictions like narrow river beds or dams, and overall volumes and flow rates.”
Cunningham said decisions are based on research, engineering, and experience and monitoring is continuous and in consultation with Environment Canada.
“Waterway staff must weigh the risks and requirements of many stakeholders to arrive at optimal levels. They must also take into account variables over which no control is possible such as topography and to allow for variations in climatic conditions (rain, snowfall, temperature, etc.) based upon records of trends, extremes and averages.”
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.