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Drastic water fluctuations in Lake Manitou and Manitou River

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  • 14 Jul 2019 3:00 PM
    Message # 7779084
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on July 13, 2019, following a lengthy discussion, a motion was passed to create a discussion forum topic whereby LMAA members can submit their name, location on the lake, and the issue(s) they are having as a result of lake water levels and resulting stream flow volume in the Manitou River.

    Please respond by October 31, 2019. LMAA will collate all comments received and summarize the issues. We will then send another letter to the MNRF and see where that takes us.

    History about this issue:
    In April, 2016, a letter from the President of LMAA was sent to MNRF. Text from that letter is shown below:

    April 18, 2016
    Mr. Brian Riche
    
Resources Management Supervisor
    Sudbury District Office 3767
    Hwy 69 S Suite 5
    Sudbury ON P3G 1E7

    cc. Corinne Nelson
    Regional Director North East Region MNRF
    Ontario Government Complex Wing A 5520
    Highway 101 E. P. O. Box 3020
    South Porcupine ON P0N 1H0

    Dear Brian,
    My name is Mike Costigan and I am President of the Lake Manitou Area Association on Lake Manitou, Manitoulin Island.
    At our last AGM on July 11, 2015 in Sandfield, we were asked by some members to inquire into the drastic water fluctuations in Lake Manitou and the Manitou River.
    We, as directors, know very little about the science and the running of the Sandfield Dam. We were unable to answer the members’ questions.

    Some History of our Organization
    Our group was organized in 1993 with 24 members and has grown to 235 members. We include permanent residents and part time residents living on the lake and river.

    Our main concern is the preservation of the quality and quantity of the water in Lake Manitou and the Manitou River which flows out of this lake. Our volunteers have been part of the Lake Partners Program of Water Quality & Monitoring, providing nutrient and water clarity data since 1995. We collect water samples once every month for six months during the ice-free season in two locations in the lake. As well, we observe the clarity of the water using a secchi disk . The samples and disk readings are sent to the Dorset Environmental Science Centre Water Chemistry Laboratory where they are analyzed and recorded. In this way, emerging issues can be identified before damage is irreversible. As you can see, our group has been involved in Lake Manitou Stewardship for 23 years.

    These are some of the questions, suggestions and observations that were brought to our attention at our 2015 AGM.

    1. In the Fall, many salmon from Lake Huron use the Manitou River for spawning, but they are unable to get up the falls because of low water levels. We cannot understand why the flow of water needs to change suddenly & drastically, rather than being adjusted more gradually. As a result of this, we wish to ask a few questions:

    A. Why do several logs need to be removed at one time, allowing all three sluice-ways to run freely? Could the removal of the logs be spread out over a longer period, resulting in a more even flow of water in the river and a more consistent lake level? Would half or quarter logs help with controlling the water level more effectively?

    B. Could the weather conditions, amount of snowfall, thickness of ice on the lake and long range weather forecasts be considered starting in January? Then adjustments of water levels could be made gradually over a longer period.

    2. Are there guidelines in place now, to be followed? If so, do they need to be revised to better suit the weather conditions of today?.

    We realize that regulating a dam is not an easy task. But it is an important one. There are many contributing factors to be considered in coming to a suitable solution. There are the needs of the residents living on the lake and on the river, the desires of sportsmen whose passion is fishing and the economic benefits that follow that sport. Then, there are the needs of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for the annual lake trout egg collection in the fall and the supply of sufficient water for the raising of pickerel in the Sandfield Fish Ponds during the summer.

    Brian, we, the Directors of LMAA, would like to meet with you some time in July or August to learn about and discuss water levels.

    (Note: The months of July & August are when I can have some Directors available.)

    Sincerely yours,

    Mike Costigan Sr., President of LMAA

    In response to this letter, LMAA Board members met with Paul Methner, Operations Coordinator, Blue Jay Creek Fish Culture Station on August 12, 2016.

    Attached are the 1991 guidelines for operation of the Sandfield Dam, provided by Mr. Methner at that meeting.

    Last modified: 30 Sep 2019 2:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 18 Jul 2019 1:02 AM
    Reply # 7785224 on 7780992
    Anonymous wrote:

    Testing

    Bruce was at the Annual meeting 13,July 2019 and I was impressed at the level of discussion around the lake and river water levels and the effects and on the lake and some thoughts on solutions. Here are a few of my observations. 

    1. Our shoreline on the west side of Lake Manitou 2.2km up the East Rd from Sandfield is  made of boulders and over the last 3 years I have noticed significant erosion with loss of support to trees, exposure of tree roots and undermining of support for trees.  No trees have fallen into the lake but I have been throwing rocks from the lake to the base of the trees to prevent trees tipping into the lake. 


    2. Wednesday July 17.2019 there was a North East wind of about 10-15 km/hour and the water was very dark brown, murky and silty. This is quite unusual since the water has always been clear and suggests to me that there is a lot of silt being stirred up. 


    Sincerely Bruce Edington

  • 4 Aug 2019 6:36 AM
    Reply # 7811314 on 7785224
    Anonymous wrote:
    Anonymous wrote:

    Testing

    Bruce was at the Annual meeting 13,July 2019 and I was impressed at the level of discussion around the lake and river water levels and the effects and on the lake and some thoughts on solutions. Here are a few of my observations. 

    1. Our shoreline on the west side of Lake Manitou 2.2km up the East Rd from Sandfield is  made of boulders and over the last 3 years I have noticed significant erosion with loss of support to trees, exposure of tree roots and undermining of support for trees.  No trees have fallen into the lake but I have been throwing rocks from the lake to the base of the trees to prevent trees tipping into the lake. 


    2. Wednesday July 17.2019 there was a North East wind of about 10-15 km/hour and the water was very dark brown, murky and silty. This is quite unusual since the water has always been clear and suggests to me that there is a lot of silt being stirred up. 


    Sincerely Bruce Edington


  • 4 Aug 2019 6:37 AM
    Reply # 7811315 on 7779084
    Anonymous wrote:

    At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on July 13, 2019, following a lengthy discussion, a motion was passed to create a discussion forum topic whereby LMAA members can submit their name, location on the lake, and the issue(s) they are having as a result of lake water levels and resulting stream flow volume in the Manitou River.

    Please respond by September 30, 2019. LMAA will collate all comments received and summarize the issues. We will then send another letter to the MNRF and see where that takes us.

    History about this issue:
    In April, 2016, a letter from the President of LMAA was sent to MNRF. Text from that letter is shown below:

    April 18, 2016
    Mr. Brian Riche
    
Resources Management Supervisor
    Sudbury District Office 3767
    Hwy 69 S Suite 5
    Sudbury ON P3G 1E7

    cc. Corinne Nelson
    Regional Director North East Region MNRF
    Ontario Government Complex Wing A 5520
    Highway 101 E. P. O. Box 3020
    South Porcupine ON P0N 1H0

    Dear Brian,
    My name is Mike Costigan and I am President of the Lake Manitou Area Association on Lake Manitou, Manitoulin Island.
    At our last AGM on July 11, 2015 in Sandfield, we were asked by some members to inquire into the drastic water fluctuations in Lake Manitou and the Manitou River.
    We, as directors, know very little about the science and the running of the Sandfield Dam. We were unable to answer the members’ questions.

    Some History of our Organization
    Our group was organized in 1993 with 24 members and has grown to 235 members. We include permanent residents and part time residents living on the lake and river.

    Our main concern is the preservation of the quality and quantity of the water in Lake Manitou and the Manitou River which flows out of this lake. Our volunteers have been part of the Lake Partners Program of Water Quality & Monitoring, providing nutrient and water clarity data since 1995. We collect water samples once every month for six months during the ice-free season in two locations in the lake. As well, we observe the clarity of the water using a secchi disk . The samples and disk readings are sent to the Dorset Environmental Science Centre Water Chemistry Laboratory where they are analyzed and recorded. In this way, emerging issues can be identified before damage is irreversible. As you can see, our group has been involved in Lake Manitou Stewardship for 23 years.

    These are some of the questions, suggestions and observations that were brought to our attention at our 2015 AGM.

    1. In the Fall, many salmon from Lake Huron use the Manitou River for spawning, but they are unable to get up the falls because of low water levels. We cannot understand why the flow of water needs to change suddenly & drastically, rather than being adjusted more gradually. As a result of this, we wish to ask a few questions:

    A. Why do several logs need to be removed at one time, allowing all three sluice-ways to run freely? Could the removal of the logs be spread out over a longer period, resulting in a more even flow of water in the river and a more consistent lake level? Would half or quarter logs help with controlling the water level more effectively?

    B. Could the weather conditions, amount of snowfall, thickness of ice on the lake and long range weather forecasts be considered starting in January? Then adjustments of water levels could be made gradually over a longer period.

    2. Are there guidelines in place now, to be followed? If so, do they need to be revised to better suit the weather conditions of today?.

    We realize that regulating a dam is not an easy task. But it is an important one. There are many contributing factors to be considered in coming to a suitable solution. There are the needs of the residents living on the lake and on the river, the desires of sportsmen whose passion is fishing and the economic benefits that follow that sport. Then, there are the needs of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for the annual lake trout egg collection in the fall and the supply of sufficient water for the raising of pickerel in the Sandfield Fish Ponds during the summer.

    Brian, we, the Directors of LMAA, would like to meet with you some time in July or August to learn about and discuss water levels.

    (Note: The months of July & August are when I can have some Directors available.)

    Sincerely yours,

    Mike Costigan Sr., President of LMAA

    In response to this letter, LMAA Board members met with Paul Methner, Operations Coordinator, Blue Jay Creek Fish Culture Station on August 12, 2016.

    Attached are the 1991 guidelines for operation of the Sandfield Dam, provided by Mr. Methner at that meeting.


  • 4 Aug 2019 7:52 AM
    Reply # 7811323 on 7779084

    28 Manitou Lane Sandfield

    Spring 2016 two 3' X 6' matts of indigenous grasses, small shrubs and earth were displaced from the shore line.  2017 one tree fell into the lake and was removed and a birch tree died.  Root exposure at the waters edge is comprising other trees. The site continues to erode.

    July 17 2019 AM from the shoreline out 16' to 50' a silt river stream had developed along the shoreline I followed it as far as 466 East Rd but could see that it continued further up the shore.

    Regards Brenda


  • 6 Aug 2019 12:57 PM
    Reply # 7814635 on 7779084

    With respect  to Water Levels in Lake Manitou and the operation of the Sandfield Dam.

    Our property  on the south shore of the Lake in the Silver Bay Area has not been seriously negatively affected by water levels in the lake over the last 45 years. However there have been some changes that cannot be directly related to the level maintained by the dam. 

    Before there were any dams on Lake Manitou this lake was very healthy and teeming  with fish. Nature totally controlled the lake levels  and the lake ecosystem appeared to adapt to whatever nature  dictated. There is to my knowledge little or no recorded  information on Manitou River  water levels  or lake levels  during spring floods or summer droughts prior to the early dams being  installed.  The lake levels were artificially increased with the dams.  The effects of these early dams on the lake  are largely undocumented. Logic  suggests when shorelines are artificially flooded   by raising the lake level shore line erosion would for a number of years greatly increase.  The effects this had on the lake are not known.

    Currently the lake levels are very stable because of the dam. The levels may or may not be more stable than if there were no dam. Dams usually have a stabilizing effect. So the problem with  the lake level is largely a man made problem. Nature is  no longer  the only factor controlling lake levels. How much the lake levels can be controlled artificially is of great debate and seems to vary considerably depending on who you talk to. Since removing the dam and allowing the lake to return to its natural level is not a reasonable option  the people of Ontario and Canada who own  the lake have appointed a government agency to manage the dam and lake levels. There are a wide range of opinions  held by area residents  on the competency of the government to manage the dam.  The democratically elected  government will continue to manage the lake levels for all the people of Ontario as is their mandate. Other options are not viable.

    The current plan written by experts in hydrology  to manage the dam is likely out of date and should be updated. This update is largely needed  to reflect the changes that have occurred and are projected to take place due to climate change . To expect the lake to be  the same as when our granddaddies  lived by the lake is unrealistic. Times have changed and will continue to change at an exponential  rate. And so the dam management should change in response to climatic factors that effect lake levels.

    Precipitation in the upper Great Lakes   within the current life of the dam has increased. Temperatures both air and water have increased, evaporation from the lakes  has increased, ice coverage has decreased,   severe drought potential has increased,  heavy precipitation and associated  floods are on the increase.

    All these factors are impacting Lake Manitou lake levels. Projecting the future is problematic and  complicates any long term strategy for managing   lake levels.  The management of the dam is only part of the equation .

    In my opinion our organization needs to apply modest pressure to government to rework the plan for managing the Sandfield Dam to reflect the new reality, climate change.  And this must be done in a respectful professional way if we wish to receive any attention. We must acknowledge the advice of experts in lake level management and understand there are no simple single  solutions to  lake  level problems.  Blaming  the government is not positive.  As tax payers we must also appreciate you get what you pay for and some government agencies  always seem to be underfunded as  is the case with the  OMNRF strapped for cash. 

    As residents and stewards of the lake it is contingent upon us  do our part to armour our lake against  negative forces that threaten this great inland lake.

    To protect against shore line erosion  in a very uncertain future I would suggest maintaining as natural a shoreline as possible with plenty of shrubs and trees and a minimum of disturbance.  Docks  that are adjustable  and have a minimum impact on the lake bottom are preferred.  There may be some areas of the lake that are not suitable for building on that are flood prone. Wetlands should be maintained as they help buffer against floods and droughts. 

    A new plan and subsequent revised management of the dam    cannot be expected to solve all  the lake level issues on Lake Manitou no matter who is controlling   the dam but it is one piece of the puzzle.

    I am a concerned resident on the lake.  I would encourage  LMAA members to contribute to this forum  to help allow for the LMAA board to accurately represent the interests of all members.

    Mark Harvey

    Jen Harvey

  • 15 Aug 2019 10:39 PM
    Reply # 7830556 on 7779084

    Hello,

    We are seasonal residents in the Silver Bay area. When we arrived this spring around mid-May we were shocked to see how much the water in our bay was disturbed and clouded by clay silt. We realized the lake level was very high and the wind was often blowing onto our shore. Upon further investigation, we realized that especially in a 30 ft section of the shore, a number of rocks had been knocked down into the water and the clay shoreline (usually behind the rocks) had been exposed. As the waves blew in, it was pulling the clay into the water of our bay. Our bay was no longer pristine clear, clean water but a muddy hole that we no longer wanted to swim in and made us wonder what kind of drinking water we were using! We noticed that other shorelines, close by, must be affected as well because the dirty water was also present beyond our property on either side depending upon the wind. In the water, we have also noticed there is more silt lying on the rocks and we are starting to get weeds in our bay in the area where the clay is exposed along the shore.

    Around the beginning of July, the water levels went down and so we have not seen the water as perturbed or dirty looking as it had been, except on days when there are large waves coming on our shore.

    What can we do about it, we don’t know???? The high level of the water this spring is certainly wreaking havoc on our shoreline. Could monitoring the levels of water in Lake Manitou and Manitou River more closely and making more gradual changes to the number of logs in the dam, moderate the fluctuations of the level of the water in the lake and river? I would think this would improve the quality of the lake for both the human and fish habitants around the water?

    We would sure hate to see the clear, clean water in our bay be ruined by the dirty water we saw this spring. Our families come to this lake to enjoy the swimming, boating and fishing that are available here because of the great quality of the water we have. And what about the fish families, I am sure they are not happy with the change in the quality of the water either! We would hate to see the beautiful lake we enjoy, change!


  • 4 Sep 2019 9:40 PM
    Reply # 7864581 on 7779084

    I have been traveling to the lake manitou area all of my life(in fact even before I was born). My extended family has strong ties to the area and have seen many changes over the years. The changes that disturb me the most are related to the water levels in both the lake and river.

    in the spring the river runs really high and fast covering the little island in the middle of the river just below the dam. What many people don’t know is that some of us locals planted trees and shrubs around that island to help it to not wash away. To come in the spring and see it all under water is very disheartening.  The devastation continues on down the river each year.

    by fall the river runs very shallow and slow. I would think this type of drastic change can’t be good for the plants, fish and animals relying on this water source.

    i understand that the dam is there for a reason but it seems to me that at times it causes more harm than good. Would it not make sense that if the changes were done more gradually less damage would occur.

  • 13 Sep 2019 1:17 PM
    Reply # 7879686 on 7779084

    Submitted on behalf of Jean McLennan - Lifelong resident near and on Lake Manitou for over 100 years

    The drastic fluctuations of the water in Lake Manitou and on the Manitou River have seriously affected our life around the lake. At our cottage near Vanzant’s Landing, for about the last 10 years, my lawn has been covered with water during the spring and summer and the erosion of the banks on the lakeshore has been terrible. With the high water, we have lost four good shade trees on our property. This year, for the first time, there was about 3 inches of water in my garage because of the high water. Around the middle of July, we still needed rubber boots to get into our cottages. In years past, we would install our docks about May 24th, but in the past 3 or 4 years, we were only able to get them in by the end of June. But it was even worse this year, we were only able to get the docks installed towards the end of July. The lawns around the cottage were just too wet to even cut the grass, never mind use a tractor to pull the docks to the shore.

    The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) needs to make changes to the water level management guidelines for Lake Manitou quickly to stop the damage they are causing to our lake and river. Around the middle of July, the MNRF put two and three-quarter logs in the dam, lowering the water in the river by 14 inches and raising the water in the lake. What a drastic change! The province uses our taxpayer dollars to pay for the stocking of fish in the lake and the river, but right now the water is so low in the river, the fish are dying and we are seeing more and more erosion on the banks of the lake causing the fish spawning beds to be destroyed. Many tax payer dollars were used to restore the river and the river banks to improve fish habitat, aided by Lake Manitou Area Association and Manitoulin Streams. But now much of that work done in the river is useless. Many of the river banks have been eroded and the trees planted have washed away with the high water in the spring or when the river level is down to just a few inches, the fish can’t live in the river anyways.

    Now the MNRF decides how many logs to put in the dam from a desk in Sudbury. They do not see the effect their changes have on the river or lake. Previously the dam was controlled by someone locally. They would adjust the logs in the dam more frequently, controlling the water levels accordingly, without the drastic fluctuations of the water levels.

    Lake Manitou is the largest freshwater inland lake but with everything going on with lake levels, fish spawning beds are being destroyed, our banks and shorelines are being eroded. MNRF should make changes to their water level management guidelines for Lake Manitou, the river and the dam to try and correct the serious problems with the lake levels immediately, not tomorrow!

    Attached is a copy of the article printed in the Recorder on July 26th, 2019. Jean was interviewed by Tom Sasvari.


  • 13 Sep 2019 4:01 PM
    Reply # 7879971 on 7779084

    We are located near Manitoulin Resort and our shoreline over the past four years has certainly slowly  and significantly  eroded.Many healthy trees  near the shoreline have or in the process of toppling into the lake.My boat that is on a lift must be removed late summer as there has not been enough water to float it off the rail by mid to late August. Very frustrating .Enclosed photos show the loss of frontage.These water fluctuations must be addressed quickly. 

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