Gordon-Barrie Island posts stop work order on shorelines until ministry permission provided

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GORDON – The issue with erosion on shorelines due to high water levels is one that is being faced in many if not all areas across the Great Lakes basin. It is also the case on Lighthouse Road in Gordon-Barrie Island where many residents are upset that the township issued a stop-work order on shoreline work because they have not received a permit to carry out this work. 

Gordon-Barrie Island reeve Lee Hayden says that residents who want to do any type of work on the shoreline need to get a permit from the township, and if any in-water work is required they are required to get permission from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

Very recently, the township had work stopped at several residents’ locations, mainly fill being put in along the shorelines by local residents because they had not followed proper protocols and gotten a permit.

“What is happening is that some of the residents are following this up properly by bringing forward a plan and getting permission to carry out work,” said Reeve Hayden. He pointed out that any work on the 6,600road allowance to the high water mark is municipally owned and requires a permit from the township. “We can’t give permission for any in-water work, this comes from the ministry (MNRF). And (the latter) that has nothing to do with us, although we are asked by the ministry for our comments.”

“We had received a report from our bylaw enforcement officer (at a Gordon/Barrie Island council meeting). Some residents fully understand the process and have brought in plans and diagrams for work to be done. We put the stop work order in place until the residents make a request to the municipality concerning work they want to carry out on the shorelines,” said Reeve Hayden. 

“Council also decided to send an information letter to everyone on Lighthouse Road, informing them of the requirements and thanking all those who have followed the approval process. We are not trying to be the big heavy, but we need to have some control as to what goes on on the shoreline.”

While the township could fine residents who have had work done on the shoreline without permits, Reeve Hayden stated, “no, we are not looking to fine people. This rumour came up after the stop work order. I don’t know where this came from in this case. (a fine) is a tool that can be used, but none of us on council felt that we should be looking at this now.” 

“The high waters and waves have been eroding our shoreline; over the last few years we have lost a lot of our shoreline and that is why we were having work done to repair it,” one Lighthouse Road resident told the Recorder. “I had contacted a local construction company to carry out the needed work. I know the shoreline is township property and the rest beyond that in the water is owned by the MNRF. But I understood that work could be carried out as part of being a custodian of the waterfront. And this work needs to be done or I will lose more shoreline.”

“Then I found out that I need a permit to carry on the work from the township, and the township bylaw enforcement officer stopped me from continuing the work that had been started,” said the resident. “I called the MNRF about a year and a half ago, and was told I can’t change the shoreline, but can maintain it. Yesterday someone obviously called to complain and that is why we and others along the road had work stopped.” 

“The water is so close to property, even some of the trees along my shoreline have been brought down because of the high water,” said the resident. “And I was told that because I don’t have a permit for work to be done that there is a possibility the township might fine me. It is very discouraging. I am trying to maintain my shoreline before I lose it entirely.”

“I would think the township would have a blanket permit for all restoration work being done to protect the shorelines from washing out, and our wells,” one resident told the Recorder. “Everyone has been warning the township for the past few years that the shorelines are eroding as the water levels are very high. And it is affecting the road as well. We were under the understanding that we were able to restore everything that is existing. And now I was told by one resident that all eight people who had work being carried out (last week) are going to be fined for not having the proper permits. You would think there would a blanket permit for all restoration work being done.”

“There is no doubt there has been erosion on the shoreline and some people have asked to shore it up. As long the work is non-obstructive or they are not doing anything other than on their own property we don’t have a problem,” said Reeve Hayden. “From what I know we haven’t denied anyone from doing work on their own property. But it has been brought to our attention that several residents have commenced work on the shoreline with no permission from the municipality. And office staff wouldn’t tell anyone to go ahead without coming in and provided us with their plans.” 

“As a municipality in partnership with Gore Bay we had work done on the road to cut down on the erosion, with big cement blocks put on the front of the shoreline in front of the water treatment plant, with riprap over it to protect it,” said Reeve Hayden. Permission for this work had been provided by the MNRF. 

Carrie Lewis, clerk of the township said, “people need to know that they need to have a permit from the township if they are doing any type of work on the 66-foot shoreline allowance and need permits from the ministry if they are thinking of doing any in water work.”

Councillor Marian Hester agreed with Reeve Hayden’s remarks noting, “council didn’t feel comfortable handing out fines for work that has been carried out on the shorelines, at this time. So, we have agreed to send a letter to everyone on Lighthouse Road providing general information.” She pointed out that under the Ontario Manitoulin land claims settlement the municipality has responsibility for custodial care of the shorelines. Resident property owners do not own the shoreline.

“For the most part we won’t have issues with work being carried out, depending on the work involved, but residents need to provide plans to the township and have the necessary permits to carry out work,” said Councillor Hester. 

“We have sent the letters to the local residents to inform them of the process that has to be followed, and as council decided no one will be fined at this time,” said Councillor Hester. However, this may not be the case in the future. 

“There are procedures that have to be followed to get permission for work on shorelines,” said Reeve Hayden. “I can understand everyone is dealing with the same issues across the Great Lakes but people still have to comply with the process.”