Our Wish List..
PREFERRED WATER LEVELS ON KUSHOG LAKE
CEWF Preferred Water Levels Initiative Spring 2015
In 2011 the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow (CEWF) launched an initiative that encourages individual member lake associations to define ‘preferred water levels’ during the navigation season.
Why is CEWF doing this?
Simply put CEWF recognizes that Trent Severn Waterway (TSW), the water management agency, does not have lake specific information on the impacts of high and low water levels during the navigation season. CEWF believes that the TSW water management plan should be able to reflect the unique characteristics of each of the reservoir and flow‐through (RaFT) lakes and be able to take into account lake‐specific constraints. These constraints may include limits to safe navigation or water access as well as environmental concerns relating to wetlands and wildlife habitat.
Managing Multiple Constraints
TSW has a very challenging task that requires the consideration of multiple constraints across the watershed. Preferred water levels (PWL) on the reservoir lakes may not be achievable if other constraints take precedence (e.g. flood control, maintaining minimum navigation levels on the canal, and meeting minimum flow requirements for public safety of drinking water and sewage treatment in municipalities downstream). Accordingly, CEWF recognizes that the identification of PWLs may raise unrealistic expectations; however CEWF believes it is important that individual lake community parameters are documented so that they can be considered in a comprehensive water management model and accommodated when and where possible.
In particular CEWF recognizes that many reservoirs are lake trout lakes and their levels need to be at their minimum, winter set level, by mid-October in order to protect the trout spawn. To achieve these levels in a timely manner the TSW draws the lakes down in September and they normally complete all log operations by October 1st.
The current ‘equal percentage draw‐down’ approach used by the TSW is expected to remain the underlying water management operating principle but with some enhancements. For example, in early spring it might be appropriate initially to have a linear drawdown on all lakes to achieve the upper limit of the preferred range as evenly and as quickly as possible in order to minimize shoreline erosion.
In wet years the subsequent drawdown would be designed to take only the water needed for TSW to meet its mandate, to provide adequate flows through the flow‐through lakes, and to protect the RaFT lakes from shoreline flooding and erosion.
In dry years the drawdown would be designed to incorporate appropriate conservation measures throughout the system while maintaining adequate flows for the TSW to meet its mandate and to protect public health. It is understood that significant operational changes in water management may require simulation studies by TSW to ensure that the overall impact of any changes will provide a net benefit to the overall system and its stakeholders.
Initially, each participating association is asked to develop a synopsis of their issues and the proposed ‘preferred water levels’ based on measurable criteria. CEWF is coordinating this process and is integrating the results for transmission to the TSW and subsequent discussion once there is evidence of community support.
PREFERRED WATER LEVELS ON KUSHOG LAKE
Most Significant Impacts of Fluctuating Water Levels on Kushog Lake:
Water Levels “too high”
• Low-lying properties flooded; foundations weakened, basements flooded
• Shoreline erosion greatly increased; boat wakes run further up shoreline
• Ice damage more likely
• Wetlands swamped – nests flooded, habitat degraded
• Clearance at Ox Narrows bridge reduced, even restricted
• Unmarked navigational hazards hidden
• Shoreline debris floats away and may present boating hazard
• Docks become detached from shore
Water Levels “too low”
• Difficulty navigating between Kushog and St. Nora Lakes
• Water intake lines may not be long enough to provide water; prone to freezing and/or ‘suck air’ – especially in areas with shallow shorelines
• Unmarked navigational hazards created eg rocks in channel leading to Buckslide Dam
• Wetlands dry out
• Boats and docks may become marooned on dry shoreland
Lake Levels rising in June (after normal seasonal high)
• Loon nests become inundated
• Wetland habitat degraded in prime breeding season for aquatic wildlife
Lake Levels falling in October
• Trout spawning bed at Ox Narrows can dry out exposing eggs
Kushog Lake Specific Concerns:
Loon Nesting: KLPOA participates in the Canadian Loon Survey and is very concerned about the decline in the loon population on Kushog Lake. Loons return as soon as the ice is out – mid April. Usually one or two eggs are laid in late May or June, and incubation of eggs generally lasts 26-28 days (through July). If the water level rises after the eggs are laid, the nest may become flooded; if the water level drops, the loons may not be able to ‘walk’ to the nest and the eggs are more vulnerable to predators. To mitigate the unstable water levels on Kushog Lake, a number of loon nesting platforms have been installed.
Lake Trout Spawning: Lake Trout spawn at Ox Narrows, a protected area. KLPOA is very concerned about the health of our lake trout population and has observed and recorded spawn activity almost daily during spawning season for the past 6 years. Flow affects the build-up of silt – KLPOA has twice cleaned silt off the spawning beds. We recognize that TSW and MNR work together to ensure an appropriate water level over the spawning beds during this time and encourage this continued cooperation.
Kushog Lake Preferred Water Level Limits:
Upper Preferred Water Level Limit: The historic average high is 3.1 meters. We have had a recognized agreement with TSW that Kushog Lake only be filled to 95% (3 meters) which we would like respected going forward.
Lower Preferred Water Level Limit: The Lake Trout spawning beds at Ox Narrows need to be covered during spawning season (mid-October to mid-November) and then have the level rise slightly to protect the eggs. Thus a lowest level of 1.45 meters (which is the historic average low) is requested.
Kushog Lake Specific Seasonal Adjustments:
Winter Set Level: TSW reference is 4 logs in place, 1.22 meters, 0% full. The average level from December 1st to January 31st has been 1.7 meters. What happens next has been very dependent on the weather.
Spring: A rapid water level increase during April and May (from the winter set level to 95%) would get the water level up before the loons nest and before property owners position their docks.
Summer: A gradual drawdown from 95% (3 meters) to 2.3 meters during the months of May, June, July and August would provide a relatively stable shoreline during the navigation season.
Fall: A rapid drawdown to a low of 1.35 meters during September and early October would prepare the spawning beds for the trout to spawn. After the spawn is finished, a slight increase to protect the eggs would prepare for winter.
KLPOA has enjoyed a respectful and cooperative relationship with TSW over many years. KLPOA recognizes the challenges that TSW faces in satisfying the needs and demands of its many competing constituents. We appreciate that we are now being notified of forecasted changes in water level – this is critical to our being able to notify our property owners when they need to plan to protect their property. The installation of a new automated water level measuring gauge at the Buckslide Dam may assist the TSW with making more timely adjustments.
Our wish is that Kushog Lake not be filled over 95%, that the level remain relatively stable during the summer months, that the level not drop after the lake trout spawn, and that we be kept informed when rapid changes are anticipated.
KLPOA Wants Your Input!
Do you agree with the recommendations stated above? If so, please check the “I agree” box on your membership form. If you have comments or concerns (or better ideas that might actually be considered) please let us know on the back of your membership form, or give Norma a call.