I have enjoyed and appreciated visiting the beautiful island of Manitoulin for many years during the Thanksgiving period and in the summer months too. It is highlighted by the charm and hospitality of the people of the Island and the fascinating homes, buildings and communities reminiscent of a bygone, nicer era.
Sadly, the attraction of visiting Manitoulin Island is waning. The reason: I really enjoy taking my boat out on an inland lake for some quiet, relaxing fishing. Catching a fish in unimportant. But in recent years the water level in Lake Manitou and Lake Kagawong has been dangerously low. Dangerous because submerged rocks become closer to the surface and the resort operators do not have sufficient water depth for docking and boats. Further, launching has become a challenge.
In the case of Lake Manitou, I was informed that water must be discharged from the lake to enable salmon to enter the mouth of Manitou River. Pretty silly when in fact raising the water of Lake Huron might be a more sensible solution. Emptying Lake Manitou down the Manitou River will not solve the problems of low water levels in the Great Lakes. Somebody should educate the person who controls the dam and water levels.
This is my third year staying in a resort on Lake Kagawong. We stay in a delightful cottage on the shore of the lake. This year not only could I not launch my boat at the nearby boat launch but there is not enough water to float my boat at the dock at the resort where I am staying. In case you are wondering, my boat is not the Queen Mary but a modest 18 foot pontoon boat that will float in nine inches of water but requires around 18 inches for the motor.
Further, over a week or more we did not see hardly any boats out on the lake. Without water it is impossible to safely use the boat. I guess I am not the only visitor or potential visitor confronted with such a dilemma as I observe many boats on shore wrapped up for the season and hardly any boats out on the lake.
The problem with Lake Kagawong is similar to that of Lake Manitou—too much water leaving and not enough coming in to replace it. In the case of Lake Kagawong the problem firmly rests with the hydro-power generating plant. A creation when “renewable energy projects” were receiving some enthusiastic attention. The generating station, built by government grants (no doubt?) for a private person to own, run and profit by was hopelessly ill-conceived based on some very creative facts. If a proper hydrological study had been done and the concerns of the people living on the lake heeded this boondoggle would not have been created.
We are told that water levels are constantly monitored—another opportunity for more creativity. It is most discouraging to actually watch the water level dropping from an already low point! The simple fact is that Lake Kagawong is not a prime hydroelectric source. And like the wind turbines, no wind equals no power, and in Lake Kagawong, no water equals no power—go figure.
We derive a measure of satisfaction knowing that our enjoyment of Manitoulin Island contributes to the wellbeing and success of many small businesses and community events. It is most dismaying to see young, enthusiastic hardworking young people putting their life savings and financial future into a business, only to be sabotaged by someone sitting in an office miles away mindlessly messing with the lake levels on which so many people depend.
Bridal Veil Falls is the “poster child” of the Island and yet for much of the time it is little more than a trickle. Visitor numbers must be trailing off. At least that is what I observe as businesses are closing up ever earlier each year. I see too many once-viable businesses now boarded up and resort owners closing up well before Thanksgiving. Just imagine the economic cost if only 50 families decide not to visit Manitoulin Island and Kagawong in a season. If each family spends around $2,500 during their typical one-week stay, that means a potential loss of $125,000! A significant sum in a small community—I base this on a very modest number too—and overall it could be far greater.
When is someone going to take charge of controlling and enhancing the viability of the inland lakes for both the economic and enjoyable opportunities of everyone? Maybe those responsible for embracing and approving the power station on Lake Kagawong should be the ones to pay off the owners of the plant, then shut it down and allow a desirable amount of water to flow over the falls so that everyone can benefit. Of course, as always, there is precious little political will and a total absence of backbone.
For my part, I am sadly considering my options. If the businesses and the economy of Manitoulin Island want to thrive and would appreciate the considerable amount of visitor dollars that are brought to the Island, they had better start making the amenities of the Island more user-friendly and stop emptying the lakes. And maybe even elect officials who have the guts to really stand for what is right.
Lionel W.F. Rudd, C.E.T.