Environment Haliburton! and the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations (CHA) presented side-byside to explain a new draft shoreline preservation bylaw and argue for its necessity.
The controversial County bylaw was the subject of an enviro-café event March 10. More than 30 people attended the session, which featured presentations on the importance of lake health and the details of what is in the bylaw. The law would add restrictions on development and activities near shorelines.
CHA chair Paul MacInnes said the organization has pushed for the legislation for three years after studying the harm natural shoreline destruction poses to lake health. He said he is sympathetic to the opposition from the building sector, who are concerned about the how the bylaw could impact their business. But he added protecting lakes is vital.
“It’s natural to stand up, fight for your family’s livelihood,” MacInnes said. “If we don’t protect our lakes, we don’t have any business.”
The draft bylaw states a person shall not remove or destroy any natural vegetation within a 30-metre zone from the high-water mark of a shoreline, except where a permit is granted or under a list of exemptions.
MacInnes said protecting shorelines will help prevent contaminants from entering and damaging lakes. County and CHA seek to reduce the risk of blue-green algae blooms, which can drastically reduce nearby lakeside property values.
The CHA had evaluators study shorelines in Haliburton and found only 46-47 per are still natural. MacInnes said the figure should be 75 per cent to be safe.
“We can’t afford to lose any more of it,” he said.
EH! Director Terry Moore discussed the history of local legislation about shorelines. He noted the new bylaw is informed by County plans, though they are not legally binding as bylaws are. He also discussed the County’s Shoreline Tree Preservation Bylaw passed July 2018, which restricts cutting trees in the 30-metre buffer.
“A lot of the language we seem to be concerned about is already in existing official plans,” Moore said.
Moore noted the bylaw would be grandfathered in, meaning existing properties that have damaged natural shorelines would not be forced to reverse the changes.
Several people at the event asked about additional measures the County should take to address the issue. But MacInnes said it would drag out the process to add much to the bylaw.
“We don’t have another two or three years to take to add all sorts of things that we’d love to see,” he said.
MacInnes said the CHA is trying to get landowners onboard with the renaturalization of shorelines. Once the bylaw is secure, he said that effort will continue, though not necessarily with further legislative support.
“That should be our big priority. I’m reluctant to go to government until we’ve done everything we can to address the problem,” he said.
Moore said it is important for people to participate in the consultation process.
“We need to take that process seriously and make sure you have your views heard and you ask all the tough questions.”