By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County is joining forceswith the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow (CEWF) to create a neworganization to give a unified voice to the stakeholders of thefeeder lakes of the Trent-Severn Waterway when it comes to watermanagement in the system.
Councillors passed a resolution for thecreation of the organization after hearing from CEWF chairman TedSpence at their Oct. 28 meeting.
The councils of the county's fourlower-tier townships each received visits from CEWF reps in recentmonths outlining the coalition's plan.
Unlike other regions feeding into theTrent basin Haliburton County is not represented by a conservationauthority.
The idea is combine the technical andacademic expertise of the CEWF with the political clout of electedofficials to create a body that can sit at the table withconservation authorities Parks Canada and the Ministry of NaturalResources and Forestry for discussions on integrated watermanagement.
“We do believe we need that singlevoice” said CEWF chairman Ted Spence a professor emeritus fromYork University who served 10 years as dean of environmental studies.
There are 35 reservoir lakes in thearea 17 of them in the Gull River basin 13 in the Burnt River basinand five among what are considered the southern feeder lakes.
As Spence has pointed out 70 per centof the water that flows through the system at Lakefield comes fromthese reservoirs that percentage increasing to 90 during the summermonths.
There have been various groupsdedicated to trying to mitigate water level fluctuations onHaliburton County feeder lakes over the decades including committeesthat operated from the 1960s through the 1990s and whosedocumentation the CEWF has been looking at.
“They were asking some of the samequestions” Spence said.
A panel on the future of the TSW heldin Peterborough in 2008 had produced what Spence said were a coupleof promising initiatives both of which turned out to be majordisappointments.
One was the establishment of a watermanagement advisory council which included county representativesChris Riddle and Keith Hodgson.
“It looked like it was going to be auseful group” Spence said. “It's actually been dormant.”
Spence said government cutbacks inrecent years led to a focus on canal operations leaving watermanagement largely out of the picture.
There was also a memorandum ofunderstanding between the provincial and federal government signed in2011 although Spence said water management initiatives stemming fromthis partnership were essentially nil.
“They've not been dealing with watermanagement and there's no indication that's going to happen” saidSpence adding that the MOU was soon to expire.
Among other initiatives the group willconcentrate on objectives such as dry and wet season planning andflood planning.
“We saw what happened at HorseshoeLake and Mountain Lake when the decision was made to store a littleextra water there to try to save Minden” Spence said referring tothe 2013 Minden flood and the many cottages that were damagedupstream of the flooded village.
County councillors were on board.
“The challenge will be how do we notbecome the next group of people trying to do something in the faceof the history we see before us” said Algonquin Highlands ReeveCarol Moffatt who called the organization a “good marriage”between the CEWF's expertise and council's access to higher levels ofgovernment.
“For the last year I spent a lot oftime looking at this” said Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin whosaid he liked the “hybrid solution” that did not entail thebureaucratic trappings of a conservation authority.
He also liked that the principalauthority would lie with county councillors.
As Spence explained the CEWF's visionfor the new organization's board to include nine members; three fromCEWF four from Haliburton County and one each from the townships ofNorth Kawartha and Trent Lakes in northern Peterborough County.
Chaired by one of the electedofficials a potential name is the Upper Trent Watershed WaterManagement Partnership.
“It's a little long but it says whatit needs to say” Spence said adding the moniker could bemodified.
The county's lower-tier councils willeach be asked to put forward one councillor to serve with theorganization which Spence estimated should meet at least three timesa year perhaps with additional meetings when required.
Spence hoped that a working group tocreate a charter for the organization would meet before the end ofthe calendar year and that a report from the group would be presentedby May.