RISING WATER ALERT
Climate change events which the province in practice apparently fails to fully recognize yet have again put cottagers and other property owners at risk of flooding. The seasonal water level draw down in Lake Muskoka in particular, took a sudden and shocking turn on Feb 24 with the arrival of much warmer weather and rain. While we were pleased to see that the MNRF was drawing down water levels more aggressively during the first 2 months of 2017, as compared to last year, the draw down has largely been reversed in the last 7 days and the water levels in the lakes and rivers are still rising rapidly from all the snow melt and rain from the 5000 sq. km drainage system that feeds our water system. Colder weather over the next three days may help; however there is milder weather and rain in the forecast early next week which may put more pressure on the “system”.
We strongly advise Cottagers to monitor water levels closely. Further reports will follow from the MLA including more detail on the Flood Level Task Force’s dealings with the MNRF and other relevant information that may become available.
Beaumaris and Bala Bay gauges both show water levels rising in the last week. Likely, this is a combination of the recent warmer weather (snow melt) combined with rainfall precipitation falling on the frozen ground.
The Beaumaris gauge was at its lowest point earlier last week about 3 weeks earlier than last year's low level, similar to the low level in 2016 before the spring flooding episode began.
This afternoon the MNRF issued a Flood Outlook for the Muskoka area. This is not an indication of imminent flooding; instead it provides an outlook for the next week. To view it, please click here.
Monitoring and Calculating Water Levels Yourself
To allow you to follow the water levels yourself, search for “Water Office Canada" on the Web and you will start to open a real-time connection to water level gauges operated by Environment Canada. We have provided instruction on how to generate the data (use the site) here. You can directly access the site using this link: http://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca
General Information on What the MLA is Doing
The MLA Water Level Task Force (WLTF) has been meeting regularly since last March and, began to meet weekly again as of Feb 1, 2017.
The Task Force has maintained the same core membership as last spring: Chris Cragg, John Bowlby, George Faught, Bob Dunlop, Bob Ensor, Michael Hart, Deborah Martin-Downs under the Chairmanship of Lawton Osler.
Background information (letters between MLA and the MNRF - local and Queens Park) will be available on the MLA Website.
As our understanding of our Watershed and its water level management challenges improved, we slightly modified our original “ask” of the MNRF, to now be:
- Develop short term measures with MNRF staff to reduce flood risks until such time as a revised and acceptable Muskoka River Water Management Plan (MRWMP) can be implemented
- Initiate a process to revise the MRWMP as soon as possible, and
- Allow MLA to be one of the participating parties in the creation of the new MRWMP.
Our ongoing policy is to develop and maintain a cooperative relationship with the MNRF area office in Parry Sound, the local office in Bracebridge and with Queens Park. We appear to have good lines of communication with our two local MNRF offices in particular, but they don’t make the rules!
We have also engaged the main local political leaders, including Chair John Klinck at the District and Mayor Don Furniss at the Township of Muskoka Lakes. We believe that this approach is already working in our favour.
Climate Change appears to be the root cause of early and heavy Spring Flooding.
Unfortunately, while we can guess at potential solutions, the reality is that deep analysis (incorporating updated climate information not available 20 years ago) as went into the creation of the existing Water Management Plan in Muskoka, is unquestionably needed to introduce updated insight and management guidelines into our requested revised water management plan for Muskoka. It appears there is neither budget nor a current strategy to create the new plan. We are working hard to get a better result for Muskoka.
More from MLA next week.
From FOCA (Federation of Ontario Cottage Associations)
Find information and links about water management and possible flooding from the FOCA website: https://foca.on.ca/high-water-flood-events-in-cottage-country/