/AH Council decides against deepening boat launch

AH Council decides against deepening boat launch

by James Matthews

Mostly sand was found on the lakebed when Algonquin Highlands investigated the possibility of deepening the Little Boshkung Lake boat launch.

And that sand, its distance from the beach, bodes ill for dredging to deepen that boat launch.

Township council voted against residents’ request that the launch be deepened.

“We do appreciate that this is a very difficult situation for the folks on the three-lake system and we feel for them,” Mayor Liz Danielsen said. “It’s a problem that needs to be resolved and it’s a real challenge for us to be the sole solution-finder.”

Chris Card, the township’s parks, recreation, and trails manager, said water depth measurements were recently taken at a boat launch on Highway 118 in response to a council request to investigate the possibility of dredging there.

The issue arose when a private marina that had serviced boaters on Twelve Mile Lake and Boshkung and Little Boshkung lakes was sold. The spring boat launch went ahead, but owners are stuck for the fall removal.

Tulloch, the consultants who visited the launch, has tallied a $668,750 bill for the total estimated project cost.

The depth of water drops immediately off of the end of the concrete launch slabs and then becomes more shallow and stays at a relatively consistent depth. There’s a slight slope out to a distance of about 185 feet from shore and then the sand bar drops off.

Visual inspection shows sand throughout. However, a more detailed soil analysis would determine this during subsequent project phases. 

“As expected, mostly sand was found at the site,” Card said. “However, the environmental review process would still have to confirm all of the soil conditions there.”

Because of the distance from shore, the equipment necessary to dredge would be something like a barge equipped with a backhoe. The sand brought to shore would need to be soil tested before brought to a landfill, Card said.

“Because of the wave action and knowing that it’s a sandbar, there would be some in-fill anticipated over time,” he said of maintenance expectations. “It would be reasonable to expect.”

The time between dredgings is impossible to predict.

The best case scenario for the project timespan would be about six months, he said.

“This is not, in this manner, a project that we could pull off before winter,” he said.

Should council decide to move ahead with the project, the next step would be the environmental review process from which other timelines can be drawn.

In his report to council, Card wrote that the estimated cost is a high level projection that would be refined as the design process takes place.

“The design finalization could be affected by the environmental permitting process, which would be the first step towards completion of this project if council wishes to move forward,” he wrote.

“A final cost would not be determined until tender submissions have been received. The consultant has advised that these costs have the potential to fluctuate by several hundred thousand dollars.”

Mayor Liz Danielsen said there’s a piece of land on Little Boshkung Lake that’s inside Minden Hills. That spit of beach has much the same characteristics as the current launch that needs to be dredged.

There’s also another possibility for a launch at the nearby Twin Lakes Resort, which has come under new ownership.

“That’s an unknown,” Danielsen said.

The mayor said she knew at the outset the project would cost a lot of coin.

“But it’s an horrendous amount of money,” Danielsen said.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer Dailloux said the boat launch issue has come as a bit of a surprise. And to deliver what residents are asking for at the site is akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole.

“It’s not a deep hull site,” she said. “It’s a shallow site. And, as to the sandbar, I am not surprised at all to hear that it should be expected that sand would come back through. This is not a place for a deep hull launch.”

To radically change the hydromorphology of Little Boshkung Lake at the behest of boat owners would set a precedent that could impact other lakes.

“For any kind of municipal function, if there’s an order of magnitude change in level of service, that has to be a broader policy conversation,” Dailloux said. “It’s not a site-specific thing.”

Besides, she said, the work is a “high dime” to hoist on all Algonquin Highlands taxpayers if only a few people are to benefit from dredging the boat launch.

Danielsen said it would be nice to know how many Algonquin Highlands large boat owners depend on that launch.

“Algonquin Highlands, I think, is doing its responsibility in maintaining the launch that we have,” said Councillor Sabrina Richards. “This is our problem in the sense that our residents are looking for it, but we didn’t create this problem. It’s a private landowner that has created this problem.

“And that private landowner is in Minden Hills. And, from my perspective, this is Minden Hills’ problem to deal with.”

Richards said it would be irresponsible to try to change a launch that’s 185 feet of a sandbar.

“I think it’s insanity to ask us to do that and for us to agree to that, given the amount of time and effort we spend on trying to protect our lake systems,” Richards said. “But I do absolutely feel sympathy for property owners there who own boats who have those boats in the water already.”