County creates new position to monitor lake health

Haliburton County has created a planning technologist position for the Lake Health Monitoring Program.

Council agreed to the new administrative position Nov. 9 during a special meeting. Funding for the position has to be allotted in the 2023 budget. That could be $75,000 annually for salary and incidentals such as benefits.

The position is proposed to be part of the administrative unit as per the collective agreement between the county and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1960.

The planning technologist would be responsible for assembling scientific information from government agencies and community-based organizations who monitor the health of the county's lakes.

This data will be used by the Planning Department to establish a base line understanding of the condition of lakes. This information can then be presented in an annual report on state of the county's lakes to county council.

Information will be assembled in one place where it can be availed of by researchers and community groups, said Steve Stone, the county’s director of planning.

The person in the role shouldn’t be construed to be the source of all the information for all the problems that may arise regarding lake system health.

“The position is a staff liaison with any future watershed council that county council decides to implement,” he said.

The Lake Health Monitoring Program (LHMP) was created in early 2022. It’s to facilitate work with organizations to confirm and update the percentage of shoreline that remain in a natural and/or regenerative state.

The program aims to establish recommended targets for naturalization, to review upper- and lower-tier bylaws and planning documents and identify those that require amendments.

Public information will also be developed through the program that could be shared now and when a bylaw is adopted.

County staff proposed during the Oct. 26 meeting that Haliburton's Lake Health Monitoring Program could be modelled after the District of Muskoka’s program.

The Muskoka Water Strategy places emphasizes on building relationships and sharing resources with other organizations while encouraging greater community involvement in lake health.

The Muskoka strategy is to guide and minimize the impact of human activities on water resources, to ensure human and environmental health, and to preserve the quality of life in the community.

In Haliburton County, lake health monitoring is being undertaken by a number of cottage associations with a new two-year program being initiated by U-links next summer.

The existing Shoreline Tree Preservation and new Shoreline Preservation bylaws can be considered to be a stewardship program.

County council commissioned the Haliburton Flood Plain Mapping Project for the Gull and Burnt Rivers. This project is due to conclude in 2024 and its deliverables will be used to update policies governing development around lakes and rivers.

Climate change is affecting lakes and rivers in many ways, including through rising water temperatures, increased sedimentation and pollution, changes to hydrology, and more frequent and intense flooding and droughts.

“Healthy lakes and rivers play an important role in protecting aquatic systems from the impacts of climate change, via temperature moderation, wave attenuation, sediment and pollutant capture, erosion reduction and the mitigation of storm surge and debris movement,” Stone wrote in a report to council.

The County’s Lake Health program could play a critical role in the earlier detection of water quality degradation in our vulnerable Haliburton's lakeside and riverine communities.

In addition, staff proposed to undertake a more in-depth evaluation of the cost to establish in 2023 the Lake Health Monitoring Program modelled after Muskoka’s.

Councillor Carol Moffatt said creating the technologist position is a good thing that aligns with so many other things county is trying to do for the future of the community.

Coun. Cecil Ryall said the new position will benefit anybody who appreciates the quality of local lakes and how important they are.

Coun. Brent Devolin said his reason for becoming involved with municipal politics was due largely to water issues.

“I pass this torch forward and trust that the future councils will see the value that we’ve seen,” he said. “Water quality is the under-pinning of our economy and these are great endeavors. I look forward to others continuing on and protecting all of our interest in our community.”

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James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo