Warm, dry weather being blamed for low L. Kagawong levels

KAGAWONG—Extremely dry weather conditions, with warm weather and very little rainfall, are being blamed as the main reasons for lower than usual water levels on Lake Kagawong this year, says an official with Oakville Enterprises Corporation, which operates the power generating plant in Kagawong.

“I was going to circulate the latest water level readings as of November 25,” said Michael J. Savel, director of energy generation, with Oakville Enterprises at a meeting of the Kagawong advisory committee, last week. “As you can see, the summer was extremely harsh and we were not able to control the levels at the lower range. But the levels have started to come up and it looks like they (water levels) will recover once the work on the plant is done and we are able to ramp things up.”

Steve Moggy, area supervisor with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, noted that the power company had shut down operations at least twice this year.

“There has been three issues relating to this: health and safety, environmental and performance,” said Mr. Savel. He explained, “one of the things we have done is put in a new walkway for the operator. Previously the operator would have to stand in the water with no safety, now we have a stand they are can stand on and they are behind a rail to provide more safety. The hydraulic power unit had to be repaired as the main shutoff valve wouldn’t close. By mid-to-late (this) week the plant will back to normal service.”

“I was just wondering what you know about the rule curve on the lake river?” asked Billings Councillor Brian Parker. “All summer long resort owners, cottagers and some of my neighbours have complained to me because they are saying the water levels are down 10-12 inches. We have a letter from a lawyer who has monitored the levels over the years who indicated that the power plant a lawyer’s letter that indicated that the power plant stopped operating a month later than it normally should, this year.”

“If you follow the rule curve, the current levels were not followed, the levels went way below that,” said Councillor Parker. “The company stopped operating a month later than they should have and this time is needed to leave enough water built up so it will mitigate the evaporation that takes place.”

“I know of two people whose boats were caught in the lifts and one who couldn’t get his boat in the water,” said Councillor Parker.

However, Mr. Moggy stated that the company, “was operating within the parameters of the lake limits.” He said the unusually dry conditions and lack of rain was the main reason for the decreased water levels.

“Once the levels went below the lowest limit, we shut down the generating station right away,” said Mr. Savel. “Things were exasperated by a summer with no rain and hot conditions.”

“This is the only hydraulic plant that we (Oakville Enterprises) operates,” continued Mr. Savel. “I’ve talked to representatives at Bracebridge Power and all their plants were out of compliance with water levels this summer, as well. The rainfall levels for Kagawong were 65 percent below normal this year. We were faced with extremely adverse summer conditions.”

“What they (public) are saying is not enough water was built up to keep things in order,” said Councillor Parker

This issue, it was pointed out by Billings Clerk Kathy McDonald, should be addressed to the MOEE or Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (who were represented at the meeting).

“I’ve heard concerns as well this summer,” said Mr. Moggy. But he reiterated the company had operated within the water level limits.

Derek Stephens, a Central Manitoulin councillor, said, “at my end of the lake I never heard even one complaint.”

“I heard a couple of complaints to do with shoreline wells and compliance with the required levels, but the warm weather and lack of rain exacerbated the problem,” said Mr. Moggy.

Mr. Savel said the company is looking at ways to mitigate problems with a lack of waterfall over Bridal Veil Falls at times that can affect local fish habitat. He told the meeting that Oakville Enterprises is, with (Billings)  township, looking at the best technical solution to curb the problem of leaks in the system, caused by inadequate infrastructure in the three rivers that feed the falls.

“One of the things the group might want to look at as well is the control dam on Ice Lake,” said Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island. “The integrity and structure in place is in decay and may affect the water going into Kagawong.”

Brian Riche, Espanola district supervisor with the MNRF, questioned if this structure is on private property.

“This is up to the MNRF, it’s the main tributary into Kagawong,” said Reeve Hayden. “It’s a semi-functioning unit, both sides have been eroded. You are going to be dealing with people on Ice Lake with concerns on water levels soon if it isn’t addressed.”

Councillor Stephens said, “the one thing of concern we have as a municipality is when water levels get too high and it erodes road infrastructure on Lake Kagawong. We’ve have had the same thing happen previously in Lake Mindemoya. The levels were brought up to a premature height and it eroded the roads. People were losing trees and the roads were being eroded.”

Councillor Parker said there are rights in place that people need to be able to get water and if the levels get too low the water lines will freeze in the winter. “We have been fortunate that in the late fall there has been a lot of rain. But people are concerned that their water lines will freeze if the levels don’t come up.”