Planning board asks for hard evidence that Lake Manitou is at development capacity

MANITOULIN—The Minister of Natural Resources (MNR) has relayed his ministry’s concerns that the development capacity of Lake Manitou has reached its maximum level. However, the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) would still like to see the evidence to prove this claim.

“What the planning board has asked is that if Lake Manitou is at capacity, give us the science, why is it at capacity? We are asking for more information. We want the science behind these statements, but so far it’s not there,” stated Ken Noland, chair of the planning board, earlier this week.

“The MNR is saying phosphorous loads are too high with so much human activity-cottages in the area that is causing low dissolved oxygen levels in the lake, but they still have provided no evidence of the connection,” said Mr. Noland, relating to a letter from MNR Minister David Orazietti. “All we’re asking for is the science behind this.”

Mr. Noland also noted the planning board has concerns with the MNR wanting all core deer yards listed in the new Manitoulin Official Plan. “They want no development to take place on these deer yard areas, but this would take in all of Manitoulin with the number of deer we have. For example, there are more deer within the town of Gore Bay than just about any other area….does this mean there wouldn’t be any further development in town?”

“Our board and Billings township council have received a response from the ministry on the concerns that have been raised,” said Elva Carter, MPB secretary, after a board meeting last week.

David Orazietti, MNR minister, stated in a letter dated January 15, 2014: “Thank you for sharing with me council’s resolution regarding the development capacity of Lake Manitou. I am pleased to respond.”

“Ministry of Natural Resources staff have determined this lake has reached its maximum allowable capacity for lakeshore development,” wrote Minister Orazietti. “I have been advised that this situation typically occurs as a result of a wide variety of land uses that are under the control of a number of municipalities, agencies and individual landowners.”

Mr. Orazietti explained, “phosphorus and nitrogen are key nutrients that flow into lakes during increased amounts of human activity within the watershed. This leads to a higher production of algae and a reduction in summer deep water oxygen levels.”

“The lakeshore development capacity was based on measurements of the deep water dissolved oxygen level, which indicate that the minimum allowable 7.0 parts per million has been reached,” said Minister Orazietti. “This is the minimum amount of oxygen needed by lake trout to support basic life processes such as growth and reproduction.”

“After 35 years, the Manitoulin Planning Board Official Plan is being reviewed and modernized,” continued Minister Orazietti. “This provides a timely opportunity to address the protection and restoration of water quality in Lake Manitou.”

“Since the area around the lake in question is almost entirely privately owned land and located within organized municipalities, the appropriate way to address this matter is by updating the official plan,” explained Minister Orazietti. “I encourage you to participate in the process led by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. This process will develop land use policies that should improve the prospects for the Lake Manitou lake trout fishery.”

“Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs, also have a role in addressing matters such as lake water quality through policy development,” continued Minister Orazietti. He added, “I encourage you to work closely with neighbouring municipalities around Lake Manitou, property owners, local stewardship organizations and ministry representatives to promote best practices and reduce the amount of nutrients entering the lake from sources such as residential septic systems and agriculture.”

Billings council, at a meeting last October, had passed a resolution in support of a motion passed by the planning board. The resolution states in part, “whereas the Manitoulin Planning Board and the Ministry of Natural Resources have corresponded with each other regarding the Lake Manitou development capacity status; and whereas the (MPB) feels that the MNR is negligent to just let Lake Manitou deteriorate; now therefore be it resolved that the Township of Billings supports the planning board resolution to request that the Ministries of Natural Resources and the Environment follow up on their findings and take appropriate measures to protect this lake other than just terminating development.”

The Official Plan is on hold while these issues are resolved. A meeting of the Manitoulin Municipal Association, planning board, MNR and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will take place February 26.

Tom Sasvari