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Lake Manitou Area Association (LMAA)
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Drastic water fluctuations in Lake Manitou and Manitou River

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  • 30 Sep 2019 2:41 PM
    Reply # 7909902 on 7779084
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted for Dave  Ham /  Assiginack  Township:

    Hi  There  :    The  Lake Manitou  water  level  problem  has  a  very  simple  solution.  My  permanent home  is   near  the  Manitoulin  Resort   ,  I  monitor  the water  level both winter  and  summer.  This  past  spring  the  level of  Manitou  was at  a  record  level because  of  the  record  snow.  Lifting  and  placing logs  in the  Sandfield  Dam  is  certainly  not  a  solution  to  the  problem..    After  speaking  to  various  people  with  Hydro  One ,  I  find  that  Lake  level control  has a solution  that  should  be  studied  .  Since  I  have  been  flying  around the  shores  on  Lake  Manitou  for  over  40  years it  is  quite  obvious  that  the  shortest  distance  to  the Lake  Huron   Georgian  Bay  water  levels  would  offer  an  excellent  opportunity to  generate  many  megawatts  of  power  while  at  the  same  time  keeping  Lake  Manitou at  reasonable levels.  These  systems  are  computer operated  and  work very well.  Just  for  your  information  the  distance  from  Assiginack  Bay on  Manitou  is  only  2 miles  with  an  estimated  fall  of  200ft.  By  increasing  the  size  of  the duct  this  system  could  keep  Manitou  plus  or  minus  a  few  inches.  When  the  lake  comes  into  balance  ,  the flip  of  a  switch  simply  shuts  off  the  flow.  Better  yet  a  automated  system  would  do  everything  automatically.  Having mentioned  this  to  Hydro  One  ,  they  seem  to  be  quire  interested in  a  project  to  generate  power  and  place  it  back  into  the  grid.  This  may  be  a  win  win  for  everyone .

    Last modified: 3 Oct 2019 8:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 30 Sep 2019 2:44 PM
    Reply # 7909967 on 7779084
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted for Don Payne, Franks Road area:

    We're not bothered by the changes in water levels because we have a floating dock and our shoreline is well fortified with rocks so that deeper water doesn't wash the shoreline away.

  • 1 Oct 2019 12:28 PM
    Reply # 7912842 on 7779084

    My unscientific observations support many of the comments.  In addition to the high water level early this year, larger climate changes, including much more intense precipitation events and more frequent East winds,  seem to be causing increased shoreline erosion on the West side of Green Bay.  Additionally, significant new road construction, and other land developments, have greatly increased the soil disturbances around the island.  I believe this is contributing to increased heavy run off and the increases of silt and cloudiness along our shoreline.  Changing the dam water release pattern to more accurately reflect the changing climate may sound like a good idea, but I suspect there is no easy or obvious way to do this.  By definition, climate change patterns are less predictable. There will likely be unexpected and unintended consequences  to changing seasonal lake level patterns and Manitou River flow patterns.  The targets outlined in the study should be adhered to until scientific study shows a better pattern.  Until then,  we should look at an affordable way to make more frequent incremental dam adjustments within the historic water level pattern. 

    Gwil Price-Rockville  

  • 3 Oct 2019 8:41 PM
    Reply # 7917053 on 7779084
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted for Ken Stewart, Gibraltar Road Area

    We have no problem in Jumps Bay area

  • 3 Oct 2019 8:50 PM
    Reply # 7917058 on 7779084
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted for: Dave Anderson, Oak Cliff Area

    We have owned property on Lake Manitou since 1988 in the Oak Cliff subdivision on Lot 11 Concession 11 Sandfield Ward of Central Manitoulin.  When the water levels are high (as they were this spring) and we get wave action from the east or north east there is significant shoreline erosion that creates a great deal of siltation along the shore.  This cloud of silt affects household water supplies as well as the inshore ecosystem covering the plants and gravel beds with a layer of silt.  I know that natural water level fluctuations are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem.  However, I believe it is time to review the policy governing the management of water levels on Lake Manitou.  I believe it is time that the primary driver of the policy needs to be overall ecosystem health and not focused to such a large degree on socio/economic issues.  For instance if Lake Manitou was managed at a lower level with adequate flow provided for the spring and fall spawning runs up the Manitou River there would be less shoreline erosion on Lake Manitou and enough water to support the spawning fish in the Manitou River.  I think that the OMNR needs to review the current policy and determine the benefits and or drawbacks of managing the lake at different levels and choose the option that will provide the best overall health for our ecosystem.

    Last modified: 3 Oct 2019 8:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 9 Oct 2019 12:39 PM
    Reply # 7925019 on 7779084
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted on behalf of Manitoulin Resort, Holiday Haven Road area:

    Thank you for including our business to comment on the fluctuations of Lake Manitou. As a staff at Manitoulin Resort, Myia asked me to reply to the concerns.

    There is a Ministry dock placed at the launch area but when the level of the water is so low, the dock is sitting on the ground with so little water it becomes useless. There are countless times lake/dock users have damaged their boats and their vehicles as they are backed in so deep into the water to attempt to put on/off their boats.

    Our resort docking area is in a desperate situation come August when the lake has drastically dropped to a point where some guests’ boats are sitting on the bottom of the lake while tied to their docks. People cannot launch their boats because of the incredibly low level. It becomes frustrating to them as well as us. It does impact our business as those who use this launch feel the need to come in to our store and vent at us regarding this issue which we have no control of. The town dock and use of the lake is a bonus point for the folks who bring their boats to fish and stay with the resort however it affects our resort reputation when we are placed as blame for the lake levels.

    As a cottage owner on Lake Manitou, I must pull my boat out of the water at the end of August every year because I can no longer get it off the marine railway because of the low levels. This is very frustrating!

    Thank you for your time,

    Sybil MacMillan for Manitoulin Resort

    Last modified: 9 Oct 2019 12:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 28 Oct 2019 8:45 PM
    Reply # 8081479 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 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.

  • 28 Oct 2019 9:22 PM
    Reply # 8081507 on 7779084


    As a resident of Sandfield I have concerns how the water is regulated at the dam in Sandfield.  I have property on Manitou Lake and the Manitou River so I see both sides of the lake and river argument.  The present dam was built in 1962.  Since this time the managers (Stan Brown& Gary Clark) of the local fish hatchery regulated the water levels on Lake Manitou and the Manitou River so as to provide ample water so the fish (Rainbow/Speckled trout /Splake) that they stocked along with natural reproduction were able to thrive and provide angling opportunities for anglers. As a little guy growing up on the  the Manitou River our family had many hours of enjoyment fishing /wading/swimming in the Manitou river.  The water was sufficient to allow the fish to move up and down the river freely.  There was water (even in the summer) coming over the middle logs to provide at least twelve inches of water in the river.  We used to go under the water fall and sit on the concrete ledge with the water going over our heads.  You had to hang onto your bathing suit while doing this or lose your bathing suit.  There were many log jams, overhanging trees & deep pools in the Manitou river in the 60!s /70!s/80!s&90!s.  My grandfather managed the original dam for over 25 years and there was always lots of water in Manitou Lake and Manitou River.  The dam was looked after by the township not the MNRF with the taxpayers having a say in the management of the single then double slues dam.

    Fast forward to 2019!  Spring (water levels extremely high in Lake Manitou and Manitou River).  Shoreline erosion ~2 feet on Lake Manitou and banks of Manitou River eroded.   Why did this happen? Well for one major reason the guidelines (which is a guideline) developed in 1991 & 2001 were not followed. (page 4 -3.0 flooding problems in 1990).  In the summer and fall of 2018 there was little to no water coming from Lake Manitou.  The water was extremely high in Lake Manitou and every log was put in the dam with no water coming over the logs.  In March of 2019 the MNRF opened up every log in the dam that they could (without washing out roads) but  Lake Manitou being 105 square kilometers with a wet spring there was no place for the water to go  .As you are aware the lake rose to historical levels and the erosion continued in the lake and  Manitou River.  Another major reason is Lake Manitou is kept at spring high levels to feed the fish ponds that have been narrowed up since the 90’s. (information supplied by previous hatchery manager)  .Since narrowing up the fish ponds  more flow is needed and as the 36 inch pipeline from Lake Manitou is gravity fed the water must be kept higher than it was under Stan Brown or Gary Clarks tenure to provide this additional flow.  Now let’s get to the whitefish die off.  As LMAA and members have been told the die off was caused by lack of oxygen.  Well let me add my two cents to the die off.  I do believe it was caused by lack of oxygen due to the silt from the shoreline erosion getting into the gills of the whitefish and causing them to die from lack of oxygen.  Why do I believe this to be the case?  Well when I picked up ~50 dead whitefish around the dock @ Sandfield there was a mud line out from the dock and out from the shore of approx 100 yards of grey clay colored water.  Also all my dad’s minnows in the Manitou River were dead in his minnow boxes and the Manitou River water was also grey coloured.

    The Manitou River was promoted as a world renound fly fishing trout stream by the Manitoulin tourist association along with the Blue Jay creek.  Many global anglers would pry their trade while fly fishing the Manitou river.  Many world class trout were caught and released back in the Manitou River.  There was also ample cover for these fish to hide from predators.  My brother Kevin caught a 6 pound 1 ounce speckled trout from the Manitou River and I won the Molson Big fish contest in 1969 for my 7 pound ¼ once Speckled trout.  Along with these big fish were angling opportunities for everyone that wanted to fish hard core or just have a relaxing time wading in the river.

    Unfortunately these opportunities are no longer there.  The river is either extremely high or extremely low.  There is no happy medium.  The fluctuating of the dam logs is now directed and performed from the Nickel Capital (Sudbury).  There is no longer any local communication with the users of the Lake or the river.  To have two people plus a vehicle and the time to come all the way from Sudbury to manipulate a log or two which could be done locally would baffle anyone.  Also I know they will not be manipulating one log (as been done in the past) so the fluctuations will be more extreme.  On more than a few occasions (since narrowing up the ponds) the fluctuating of the water levels in the Manitou River has resulted in total loss of my dad’s minnows by the raising or lowering water levels thereby denying him a business opportunity to sell minnows which he has done for 90 years.

    The MNRF is totally unresponsive to my and many other people’s phone calls /texts or verbal communication.  They do as they like with no repercussions.  The Lake Manitou and Manitou River is private property and as such the MNRF should be listening to the taxpayers not the other way around.  I along with my family have seen rainbow in the spring left to die because the water level was dropped 20 inches in one day.  We have also seen Chinook salmon stranded in pools of water because water levels were drastically dropped or rainbow or salmon washed away from spawning beds when water levels were raised.  Waterlines that have been in place since before 1962 never had an issue until the ponds were narrowed up have suddenly frozen solid or are almost dry after June.  When mentioning this to the MNRF folks their reply is maybe you should have an alternate water supply. You would think mentioning this would have a pronounced effect on the MNRF but it falls on deaf ears.  The water level in Manitou Lake is at least 8 inches higher then when I was a young lad.  How do I know this, we’ll all you have to is look at the concrete pier in front of the dam.  In August the water on this pier would be down at least 12 inches.  A lot of kids would swim out to this pier.  Right now it is only down 4 inches. What the MNRF do not understand is that Lake Manitou is a spring fed lake and the water can be down 12 inches in September and by the following March the water will have come back up this 12 inches plus the additional spring runoff. The MNRF will do their cycle again come March 2020 of opening up every possible log and shutting the river dry again in June 2020.  The salmon run will not happen due to low water levels and all the canopy cover will disappear as has happened since the narrowing up of the hatchery ponds because of excessive water flow. If anyone is looking for the changes in the Manitou River go to Snow Lake and see the choking off of the Manitou River due to high water levels. The river erosion has caused the silt to build up in Snow Lake and almost choke the waterway off.   LMAA has donated many funds to Manitoulin streams for the rehab of the Manitou River.  I can say first hand and have seen the destruction that the MNRF has done on the rehab projects done by Manitoulin streams.  You would think that the MNRF would be concerned about the environment, but they are not.  As an organization it is disconcerting to see rehab work done by many volunteers only to have another organization totally destroy these efforts.

    If as a LMAA member I did not care about our great lake and river system then the time and effort to improve would be a waste, but I have a feeling that things are slowly improving.  As everyone knows getting the MNRF to a meeting to explain and receive criticism is a very frustrating endeavour but one that has to happen to improve this current crisis.  The original benchmark is not being followed as per the 1991 guideline and as such the lake is higher than the original water levels and the river is left to almost dry up.  I will provide some of the pictures that I have taken for your viewing.

    20 files
    Last modified: 28 Oct 2019 11:22 PM | Anonymous member
  • 18 Nov 2019 8:31 PM
    Reply # 8128325 on 7779084

    The pictures below are of the shoreline of 466 East Rd from spring/ summer 2019.

    These show wash out from behind the bolder shoreline.  One photo shows buckling of soil  at the shoreline with  a rise of   2 ' and a run of 20'.

    Two additional changes witnessed this spring but unfortunately we did not take photos,  were of remarkable movement of large boulders approx . 5 ' x  3'  x  2' and a mass of shoreline vegetation approx 10' x 10'  floating at the shoreline.  Presumably this mass was a piece of shoreline dislodged from elsewhere since this is not consistent with ours.  It was a 12" to 18" thick mass of soil,  roots,  grasses and low shrubs.

    9 files
  • 23 Nov 2019 10:16 PM
    Reply # 8136687 on 7779084

    Submitted at the request of Mary Lochead – Lyons Lane, Sandfield area

    I am writing regarding the changing of the logs in the Sandfield Dam. There seems to be no thought given to the river or the residents who depend on the river for their source of water, not only for themselves but for their animals too. A once well renowned river for speckled trout has been turned into a slow, shallow trickle where scarcely any aquatic life can live and survive. This condition has happened in the fall frequently in recent years, resulting in a lack of water for the salmon to come up the river to spawn.

    In contrast, in the spring too many logs are removed from the dam, at the same time, allowing too much water to flow. As a result of the fast running water, the river banks suffer from a lot of erosion. Then the soil that is washed away is deposited on the spawning beds. This has destroyed the fishery and the economic spin off will continue in the years to come.

    Also, the higher water level that is being maintained recently in the lake is causing increased erosion on the lake shore in many places. This is causing trees and grasses to fall down and die and is causing silt from the shoreline to cloud the lake water, covering the spawning beds, for the bass and other fish. The dirt in the water deteriorates the quality of the water, spoiling people’s drinking water and the water they swim in. The clean, clear water we used to be so proud of is often not as clear as it used to be.

    Several years ago, the Lake Manitou Are Association (LMAA) with Paul Methner’s help, dreamed of restoring the Manitou River as a speckled trout stream. Many volunteers from LMAA gathered together to place stones and logs in the river to provide hiding places and deeper resting spots for the fish. Also, small bushes and grasses were planted along the shore of the river to provide shade for the fish and to prevent erosion of the banks. Improvements were going well until the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) took too many logs out of the dam one spring. This allowed an abundance of water to be released and much of our restoration work was destroyed. However, I am thankful that Manitoulin Streams is continuing the work of river restoration in the Manitou River as well as many other rivers on Manitoulin.

    I think that many of these problems could be solved by a more gradual handling of the logs in the dam. For example, lowering or raising the level of the logs more often and more gradually would certainly reduce the drastic fluctuations of the water level and help to provide a more suitable solution to these problems.

    It would be encouraging if the MNRF would at least listen to and consider the suggestions of the people and try to find a solution for these existing problems that would be a benefit for the residents around the water as well as the aquatic life in the water.


    Mary Lochead

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