The Panel on the Future of the TSW has submitted to the Minister of Environment Canada an excellent report making 26 recommendations. The report, "It’s All About the Water", is available at www.tswpanel.ca. The complete written submissions of the CEWF, as well as all the other parties, can also be found there.
The CEWF represents approximately 40,000 Ontario taxpayers who own property on reservoir and flow through (RAFT) lakes in what TSW refers to as the Haliburton Sector. This sector includes the Gull River, Burnt River, Nogies Creek, Eels Creek, Jack Creek and Mississauga River Watersheds most of which are in Haliburton County, but the area also extends into the Township of Galway-Cavendish, Harvey, the County of Peterborough and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
In its presentation to the Panel, the Coalition made it very clear that we expected nothing less than an equitable, updated, integrated water management mandate that reflects the modern day usage of the entire TSW system, including the reservoir and flow-through lakes in our region.
The Panel supported our position in 6 areas, we lost 1, and came to a draw in 2. Following is a summary, along with ‘next steps’.
1. DEFINITION OF "EQUITABLE"
The first question members of CEWF are asked is what we mean by "equitable water flow".
The Coalition is seeking the implementation of an equitable water management policy for the TSW that accords equal consideration, along with fair and just treatment to everyone in the entire Trent River watershed. Reservoir and flow through (RAFT) lake communities should be considered equally with all other TSW communities where the policy applies to safe navigation, access to waterfront property, economic sustainability and the avoidance of negative environmental and economic impacts.
The Coalition recommended that "The arbitrary ‘equal percentage’ drawdown of reservoir lakes should be abandoned in favour of a management plan based on individual lake ecology and corresponding drawdown regimes. The Panel did not specifically address this point, but focused almost entirely on the waterway itself.
2. WATER MANAGEMENT
The Panel Report emphasized the need to focus on the two watersheds (Trent & Severn) throughout the report. They agreed with our opinion that an "integrated water management plan" is imperative to ensure the future of the waterway.
They also stated that the present mandate for Parks Canada is outdated and that certain responsibilities such as water allotment were beyond their capability. The Panel has recommended that an Independent Water Management Agency, accountable to the federal Minister of Natural Resources be formed to manage water flows, levels, and allocation in the Trent-Severn Watersheds. The agreement created by the federal and provincial governments would clearly describe its mandate, jurisdiction, guiding principles and structure. The Agency would consist of a five to seven member board of water management representatives. A "stakeholder advisory committee" would include citizens with an interest in water management relating to the environment, shoreline residence, tourism, waterpower, recreational fishing, boating and resource extraction would provide formal input to the Agency. This is a big and the Number One WIN!
There would be a Hydro Division within the Agency, which would:
1) Establish a licensing regime for new hydro development that reflects a rate for water usage, and embodies a "run-of-river" philosophy
2) Pursue the development of new opportunities
3) Ensure compliance with federal environment assessment legislation and policies, with a particular emphasis on cultural and natural heritage
4) Monitor and ensure compliance with license requirements
5) Renegotiate existing licenses to bring all plants under one pricing regime
The Coalition acknowledges the expertise of Ontario Power Generation, and is aware that substantial taxpayer funded subsidies are provided to companies producing new sources. However, we are very concerned about the emphasis placed on hydro power generation within the TSW when it is clear that the supply of water is declining. We also have concerns about the proposed Hydro Division within the Independent Water Management Agency alongside water allocation.
The Coalition’s recommendation to "prioritize needs and produce a comprehensive ‘water budget’ is integral to the mandate of the IWMA, but no details aligned with the Coalition’s approach were outlined.
3. GOVERNANCE (AND JURISDICTION)
The Panel noted that the question of governance and jurisdiction is in total chaos, and suggested that co-operation/collaboration between the provincial and federal policy makers is essential to guarantee the sustainability of this national treasure. The province was conspicuously absent, with their lack of participation in this project.
The Coalition recommended that "The issuance of water taking permits would immediately cease until such time as, in accordance with the Precautionary Principle, it can be proven that sufficient water is available in excess of that required to supply the demands for flood control, safe navigation, environmental issues and power generation." In that order! The Panel addressed this in spirit if not in substance.
The latest and quite encouraging news is that a rare special caucus has been formed that includes both federal and provincial members of parliament from both parties. This is a non-partisan group of people which will try to co-ordinate the implementation of some of the political recommendations contained in the Panel’s report. Initial details of the caucus initiated, and chaired, by Barry Devolin can be found on his website www.barrydevolin.ca Click on "Barry’s Column", which he will be updating with news of the progress of the Caucus.
The Panel report states in Chapter 10 that "The Trent-Severn Waterway is a federal asset and a national treasure and we believe that it must be funded, in large measure, by its owner – the federal government."
However, the report also suggests that all levels of government receive substantial benefit and revenue from the waterway in the form of boater fuel taxes, fishing permits and municipal waterfront property taxes and should contribute to the sustainable future of the waterway. It goes on to suggest that the most important contribution other orders of government can make will not be financial, but rather in the form of their commitment to sustainable goals, and their participation in a variety of partnerships that will be essential to assuring the waterway’s future. (eg. through volunteer groups like the Coalition, etc.)
The CEWF maintains that waterfront property taxes generously compensate for owning such property.
The Minister of Environment Canada announced federal funding in the amount of $63 million to begin the process. It is our understanding that these funds are for "capital" expenditures, that is infrastructure, additional personnel and training. We have been advised that $19 million has been designated to the Haliburton Sector, (dam repairs at Eels Lake) but are currently trying to obtain more details.
5. NAVIGATION AND RIPARIAN RIGHTS
The CEWF recommends that the water management priorities of the TSW be changed. The present mandate given to it by Parks Canada is focused on flood control and navigation in the waterway proper. We believe the priority should be flood control, environment (including fisheries), safe navigation (including in and between the reservoir & flow-through lakes), power generation, followed by community use.
The Panel did not refer to Navigation and Riparian Rights per se in their report. Nor did they prioritize needs. A LOSS! – but the CEWF is currently in communication with the members of the parliamentary committee which is revising the Navigation Act.
However, the Panel disagreed with the Parks Canada perception that navigation in the canals and locks trumps all other demands for water.
6. SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
The Panel report states on Page 10 that "This waterway system is the pillar of its watersheds’ economies. Waterfront residential property alone is worth a whopping $23.6 billion. Seasonal and permanent waterfront residents generate more than $1 billion in economic activity and $240 million in municipal property taxes each year. The waterway alone supports a $300 million recreational fishery, Ontario’s largest. And water based tourism generates tens of millions more dollars. Boats and locks are perhaps the most visible parts of this great system, but they are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’."
The Panel report did not specifically refer to these lake communities even though their economic impact far exceeds that of any of the other stakeholders. Lake Associations and their members are probably the best "keepers" of the environment in our region. They chose not to acknowledge the benefit given to the large communities of abundant, clean water but without compensation to the RAFT lakes and their municipalities that make the effort to ensure the quality of that water
7. COMMUNICATION & EDUCATION
The Coalition is particularly happy about the Panel’s recommendation that a Trent-Severn Heritage Region Council be formed to promote sustainability in the watersheds.
The CEWF considers the formation of this Council top priority alongside the formation of the Independent Water Management Agency. We intend to lobby governments, both provincial and federal to act quickly in this regard.
They proposed that the council members be drawn from federal, provincial and local governments, First Nations and citizens-at-large. A definite WIN!
Topics of Interest to the Heritage Region Council include, but are not limited to:
1) Lake health & planning (e.g. water quality, shoreline development and management, aquatic habitat)
2) Water conservation
3) Cultural resources and scenic quality
4) Recreational access to and use of the water
5) Natural areas (e.g., wetlands, habitat and corridors, regional ecological links)
6) Co-ordination of water-based economic opportunities
7) Natural resource management (e.g., farming, forestry, resource extraction)
The Panel strongly advocates a public education program that is adequately funded, and that reflects the history as well as the present day function of the TSW. However, the Panel seems to again focus only on the canals and locks, forgetting that the watershed regions also have a very long, interesting and equally important history. The potential for these regions to develop an environmentally and ecologically friendly future is endless.
CONSERVATION: Fresh water is our most precious natural resource. It is being squandered-over the dams, used to water lawns, excessive domestic and commercial use. Is fresh water really a "renewable" resource? – something to think about!
PRESERVATION: Wetlands are being cleared or filled to make way for development. Our lakes are stressed with pollution, excessive and new weed growth, which may be caused by lower water levels, the thousands of gas powered boats and personal watercraft, faulty septic systems, fertilizers and other chemicals that can run off or leach into the lakes and rivers.
RESTORATION: Dams are in a state of disrepair. Shorelines are hardened by waterfront development. It is the legal responsibility of the Federal Government to rectify the first. It is our individual responsibility to rectify the latter.
All three of these can be achieved through EDUCATION. There is a wealth of knowledge available in the numerous volunteer groups like Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association Lake Stewardship Program, Environment Haliburton, Communities in Action, Haliburton Trails & Tours Network, The Frost Centre Institute, the proposed Haliburton & District Watershed Council to name a few. Given the financial resources and incentive, these organizations would be a valuable asset to the well being and successful future of the TSW. Perhaps a partnership of like minded groups could lead to a watershed council similar to the Muskoka Lakes Council.
Those of us who live, work and visit the "land between" (contact zone between the Canadian Shield and Lake Ontario) do so to experience the natural, peaceful beauty of the area. We want to keep it that way.
Equality, Integration, Conservation, Preservation. Restoration and Education are the keys. As a TV commercial says,
We did not inherit the earth from our parents. We are just borrowing it from our children.
WHERE DOES THE CEWF GO FROM HERE???
1) Lobby for acceptance of the Panel recommendations. It will be the recommendation of the CEWF that the establishment of the Independent Water Management Agency and the Trent Servern Heritage Region be top priority.
2) Engage the TSW to determine what, if anything they will attempt to do this year to improve water management. The CEWF will offer to stand ready, willing and able to participate in that process.
3) Appear before each municipal council and county to advocate for a Water Committee with a dedicated staff person to support it with community members as participants.
4) Encourage the formation of a Haliburton & District Watershed Council. Such a watershed council would address environmental issues like the proposed open pit mining operation.
At the present time, the CEWF does not foresee the need for additional funds. We would like to hold our currently remaining funds for at least another year, at which time we will reassess our needs, and act accordingly.
It has been suggested by some of members that all our Lake Associations should consider allocating a portion of membership fees (say $5.00 per member) to an emergency fund that would be used if and when funds are urgently required either for the CEWF or another environmental threat to our lakes.
Prepared by your CEWF Advisory Committee
Contact: 705-286-6141 or firstname.lastname@example.org