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The future is now for Trout Lake

Local group urges residents to speak up on new watershed study
20180601 trout lake 5 turl
Trout Lake, the source of North Bay's drinking water.

A new watershed study and management plan is in the works for Trout Lake. Recently, East Ferris and North Bay held open houses to provide information on the project and hear feedback from residents who have questions or concerns about the lake.

Members of the Trout Lake Conservation Association (TLCA) attended the North Bay open house, which was held in the atrium of City Hall on March 13 and had an opportunity to share their concerns about the lake’s future.

Liza Vandermeer, a member of the TLCA’s board, urges residents to speak their mind to city hall about Trout Lake, as the information will help to shape the study which will inform future policy concerning the lake for years to come.

See: Residents take to Trout Lake open house like fish to water

“We’re concerned, to be honest,” Vandermeer said, “which is why we are watching this very carefully.” Trout Lake is unique in many ways, she noted, particularly known “for its exceptional water quality,” and a “native lake trout population.”

“It’s very important in many ways, and also a prime recreational asset” for the area.

Vandermeer and the TLCA acknowledge that the city of North Bay and the municipality of East Ferris are excellent stewards of the water. Both have been “very proactive in putting in policies regarding land use measures to protect the water quality,” and the TLCA wants that to continue.

This new study is being prepared by the City of North Bay, East Ferris, the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority with help from Hutchinson Environmental Services Ltd, and J.L. Richards. Currently, the study is in the second phase of development, the public consultation phase.

After this, recommendations made by the public will be used to inform the study, and once the study is complete, this document will help guide future policy decisions, including land development, around Trout Lake for years to come.

The TLCA wants to ensure that future decisions concerning development on Trout Lake remain in the best interest of the water and the environment, and to achieve that goal, Vandermeer encourages residents to speak their thoughts on the issue while they can.

“It is better to be cautious up front rather than trying to take action after there has been environmental damage.”

The association is also concerned that the study is not taking enough account of the possible effects of climate change, which “is probably going to have an effect on water quality” in the area. Increasing temperatures may affect levels of dissolved oxygen within the lake, Vandermeer noted, “and lake trout are dependent on dissolved oxygen.”

“Warmer temperatures do reduce the oxygen content in lakes,” she said, “and nothing produced so far” within the study “has talked about looking at the impacts of climate change on Trout Lake.”

“And we have asked about that, we really want to make sure that gets identified up front” as an issue for the study to include.

Lake front property generates a lot of money for municipal coffers through taxes, and over the years, Vandermeer has seen a drastic change along the shores of Trout Lake, from small cottages to mansions, and the concern for the TLCA is that more development will be allowed if the water quality remains high, but the fear is that future development may one day have an adverse affect on the water.

“Protecting the watershed and maintaining natural vegetation” remains a key component to ensure the overall water quality of Trout Lake, Vandermeer emphasized. “And we really want to see that enhanced.”

“Urbanization on a waterfront always has an impact on a lake,” she said, offering Lake Simcoe as an example. “Barrie has just turned into part of the GTA,” and this development can take a toll on the watercourse. “The province had to bring in proactive legislation about Lake Simcoe,” she said, because the city “was not proactive about protecting it, and we don’t want Trout Lake to be our own Lake Simcoe where we’re trying to lock the barn after the horse is gone.”

See: Lake Simcoe could be the 'canary in a coalmine' to larger problems, environmental groups say

Overall, “there is some really great work going on” at Trout Lake, Vandermeer emphasized. “The Conservation Authority is doing really great water quality monitoring,” and “they’re really stepping up to the plate.”

However, the Conservation Authority is dependent on outside funding, and reduction in funds could result in reduced service. The possibility of that is slight, but it remains, “and that’s one of the things we worry about, because if there were cutbacks, who knows what might happen to the data collection?”

“Protecting Trout Lake is important,” Vandermeer stressed, and “we hope that our comments are going to be incorporated into the next stage of this study.”

“The City of North Bay and East Ferris need to hear from people that they want to see strong protective measures incorporated in the study’s recommendations,” she said, warry that “short term gains” might “ruin the lake for everybody else.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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