Best practices to protect Lake Huron
‘Coastline municipalities need to share best practices to protect Lake Huron,’ says Coastal Science and Stewardship advisor
Communities along Lake Huron’s shoreline need to work together to combat issues the entire lake faces, said Pat Donnelly, Coastal Science and Stewardship advisor, because if they are not addressed they could have an adverse effect not only on the lake but the surrounding area’s biodiversity and drinking water.
“It’s the only shoreline we got,” he said. “It’s why Goderich, Sauble Beach, Grand Bend are there — it is because of the shoreline. It is the tourism mecca of those communities. And it is something that if we don’t manage it properly and wisely, we’re going to run into all sorts of issues like water quality.”
Donnelly spoke with The Signal Star Oct. 20 following his presentation to councillors from municipalities that surround Lake Huron during the first Lake Huron Municipal Forum at Goderich’s Beach Street Station, just a stone’s toss from the shoreline of discussion.
Hosted by the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation, the forum was organized to bring together municipal decision makers along Huron to talk about their issues preserving the great lake and best conservation practices.
Donnelly said lines of communication between these various communities from Tobermory to Sarnia need to be opened, such as through this forum, so they can discussion an issue that affects them all evenly.
“These folks are busy doing all sorts of things, talking about taxes and everything else as municipal councillors. This is an opportunity today to just sit down and talk about Lake Huron,” he said.
The municipalities need to discussing the “nuts and bolt issues” such as shoreline management, phragmites, water quality and climate change to make sure the right decisions are being made concerning the future of the lake, he said.
The lake is an ecosystem, he said, which humans need to remember they are apart of and some communities are participating in this relationship better than others and this forum could help to find a balance in the relationship.
An example of this ecosystem, he said, is issues surrounding bluff erosions. Many cottages have been built along Lake Huron’s bluffs because of the proximity to water and the beautiful views from the cliff’s edge.
However, the water level of Lake Huron fluctuates by up to two meters, with the all-time low occurring in 1964 and the all-time high in 1986.
“Over the course of those decades it was a two-meter change in vertical elevation and that makes a huge difference if the toe of the bluff is being eroded by the waves or you’ve got 20 feet of beach and the erosion is happening on the beach,” he said.
In Grand Bend there is great discussion among the public over a lakeshore management plan. Donnelly said the conservation authority that put together the plan is essentially saying they need to plan not just for tomorrow but for 50 years down the line and they don’t want to put any more development in an area that might not be there decades from now.
Another issue that is affecting many communities on the lake is phragmites, which is an aggressive invasive species.
“Phragmites is something that is taking over the shoreline and it’s a real concern for municipalities because cottagers are losing their access to the beach,” he said.
Growing over six-feet tall, the plant also blocks views and is a nuisance to cottagers. For native plants and animals, it poses a more serious problem
“[It’s] basically taking over habitat that foxes and turtles and all sorts of different animals are basically being left out and having to move. So it’s an invasive, prolific species that is taking over our coastline,” he said.
Donnelly doesn’t see these issues as insurmountable. He believes that solutions can be found through the municipalities.
“Today what we’re talking about is showing that we’ve got good examples in other areas of the shoreline that other areas can benefit from,” he said.