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Follow-up - Public conference combined with a meeting of the Federation of lakes of Val-des-Monts with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Posted on January 27, 2017

Follow-up - Public conference combined with a meeting of the Federation of lakes of Val-des-Monts with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Follow-up: Meeting of the Federation of lakes of Val-des-Monts with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

A public conference with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Catherine McKenna, titled “Discussion on The Environment and the Economy” was held in Chelsea on February 1, 2017. The conference was organized by the Member of Parliament for Pontiac, Mr. William Amos. The Minister chose to arrive before the start of the conference in order to personally meet some environmental agencies and hear about their major issues.

I represented the Federation which was one of the 11 chosen agencies that met with the Minister. The Federation briefly raised many of its environmental issues related to the protection of the waterways of Val-des-Monts.

The Federation also presented a more detailed written briefing to the Minister and the MP for Pontiac which follows.

René Parent, President

Federation of Lakes of Val-des-Monts

Briefing from the Federation of Lakes of Val-des-Monts

Presented to the Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, February 1, 2017

« Water Resources: A collective resource for current and future generations »

The Federation of Lakes of Val-des-Monts is a non profit organization that has been in operation since 2005 in the municipality of Val-des-Monts to protect its waterways.

The Federation represents 19 lake associations (covering 32 lakes) including all majors lakes in the Municipality. For more information on the Federation and its activities, you can visit our web site : www.federationdeslacs.ca

The Federation is headed by a Board made up of volunteers who receive no financial compensation. It also has one full-time employee who is a consultant in ecological matters. Further, each summer, the Federation hires one or two summer students in ecological studies thanks to a grant from Canada Summer Jobs.

The Federation’s ultimate mission is to protect and improve the water quality of our waterways and their environment with the desired outcome of having clean water and a healthy natural environment. In addition to a vast array of activities carried out in the field, which consist mainly of gathering highly detailed characteristics of the waterways, and I will come back to this later, the Federation aims to raise awareness and educate riparian residents, users, businesses and government bodies in order for them to become eco-responsible citizens and organizations.

At present, among many other activities, we are working in close collaboration with the Municipality of Val-des-Monts on an Ad-Hoc Committee established by the municipality to develop a Water Master Plan for our municipality, an initiative which the Federation has been working on very actively for five years including gathering in the field a vast amount of basic data on approximately 40 lakes and waterways in order to learn about them, document their state, and analyse the data in order to better understand the issues at hand.

Environmental and financial issues

Everyone agrees that our lakes are an invaluable resource. The deterioration of our lakes results from a great number of factors some of which are more well known, for example microbiological and chemical contamination, over utilization, erosion, invasive species but there are many other factors which, when combined, lead to a gradual, and unfortunately in many cases, an accelerated deterioration of our lakes. What is not as clear and far more challenging is identifying ways to implement protective and corrective measures.

I would like to simply mention at this time, the major issues in our region pertaining to the water quality of our lakes. However, we prepared and are attaching an annex that offers more information on these and other issues.

- The Eurasian Watermilfoil is the greatest issue in Val-des-Monts, a species that is now well established in many of our lakes.

- Equally worrisome are the zebra mussels that are at our door, in the Rideau River and the La Carrière Lake, located a mere twenty kilometers from Val-des-Monts.

- Blue-green algae (cyano-bacteria) which according to some experts is somewhat the symbol of lake degradation in Quebec and which is also a serious menace to human health.

- A lack of awareness of good environmental practices, even in this day and age.

- However, one of the greatest challenges facing our lakes, which in many instances are ideal for water activities, is Ottawa - but not the federal government, rather their close vicinity to our National Capital (Ottawa and Gatineau which are respectively about 25 and 10-15 minutes away). This causes an over-utilization leading to many damageable and accelerated environmental impacts.

Other than strictly environmental impacts, many of these issues entail direct and indirect financial implications for the residents and to mitigate these impacts.

Therefore, these great environmental challenges are closely linked to another major issue: funding for activities aimed at protecting and improving our waterways.

The initial work by the Federation towards the development of a Master Water Plan pertained to the characterization of the waterways in order to build an inventory of the water quality (physico-chemical), the characterization of shorelines, the identification and recording of the location of intrusive aquatic vegetation, the identification of fauna and flora (including species likely to be threatened and invasive exotic species), the identification of beaver dam activity and the characterization of watershed and many other elements which are still currently under review.

In relation to the « water quality » mentioned earlier, a wide array of data were collected including the temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, nitrates and transparency. Furthermore, other factors, such as the total phosphor, chlorophyll a and dissolved organic carbon, were measured in most lakes to establish the state of eutrophication (aging).

In order to accomplish all these initiatives, the Federation received funding from various sources including an annual grant from our municipality, grants from other agencies as well as lake association membership fees. However, the reality is that our main source of funding (the grant from the municipality) was reduced by almost half a few years ago. This meant that we have had to use up all our reserve funds and also eliminate some activities.

Consequently we must organize more and more fund raising activities and submit grant submissions in a highly competitive market along with many other grant-seeking environmental groups.

For example, in order to develop a new highly relevant project this year, the Federation submitted a proposal for a grant in the amount of $34,450, over 2 years, to EcoAction administered by the Department of the Environment and Climatic Change. The title of the project is “Protect our Lakes from Zebra Mussels” which will help determine whether the mussels are present in lakes which have public access ramps.

In closing, although we work closely with our municipality towards the development of a Master Water Plan, it is nevertheless just a plan, for which its implementation will require much more resources than the combined available funding from the Federation, lake associations and the Municipality.

René Parent, President

Federation of Lakes of Val-des-Monts

Attachment

Annex

Main issues which affect or can affect the water ways in our region

Val-des-Monts is a suburban region renowned for its recreation setting and numerous lakes. Although it is prized among its users, the region is the target and is prone to many environmental impacts, many of which are highly harmful.

Invasive exotic aquatic plants

Invasive exotic aquatic plants are caused mainly from the contamination of boats that are not washed nor inspected to make sure they are clean before entering one body of water after having been in another. It is also related to a lack of funding. Indeed, the lack of boat washing and/or inspection facilities combined with a lack of awareness contribute to the spread of the species.

The Eurasian watermilfoil is the most problematic species in Val-des-Monts. It is harmful in large part because other aquatic plants offer no competition not does it really have predators in our region. It spreads and covers the bottom of lakes thereby reducing the oxygen and light required by many indigenous fauna and flora species. One single section of the plant severed for example by the motor of a boat can rapidly re-colonize a second plant, whereas in reality a fast moving boat propeller can easily sever many sections that can then generate numerous new plants. The impacts of the proliferation of the plant are many: loss of habitat for salmonids (trout), loss of economic benefits related to sport fishing, loss of indigenous species in the lakes, loss of lake property values and inability to practice recreation activities (swimming, fishing, water sports, etc).

Zebra mussels are already present in the Rideau River and the La Carrière Lake located approximately 20 km from Val-des-Monts and are another invasive exotic aquatic species that can cause many environmental impacts in the region. They represent such a serious concern that we plan on starting a project this summer to detect their presence. From an ecological perspective, this species is harmful to the biodiversity of the lakes and especially impact the soft water mussel population because the zebra mussel attaches itself to its shell in order to disintegrate it and feed of the calcium. From an economical perspective, zebra mussels are harmful to a large number of users including lake residents that take their water from the lake. The zebra mussels attach and plug water ducts and also attach to boats and other structures present in the water.

Blue-green algae and nutrients (phosphorus)

Blue-green algae is naturally present in low quantities in bodies of water, but their fast-spreading capability as a result of nutrients found in the water such as phosphorus can seriously lead to health concerns. Implementing good environmental practices which reduce nutrients in lakes is an important issue for our organization considering that the problem can come from various sources. One can just think of conventional agricultural practices, the clearing of the vegetation along the shorelines, the sewage spread in the environment resulting from non-compliant septic systems, the run-off from roads in the vicinity of lakes, the erosion of the shoreline created by waves (wake-boats and others), the use of phosphate fertilizers and products or the drainage of beaver ponds from unstable dams.

Lack of awareness

Lack of awareness of good environmental practices is still problematic these days. Despite all the publicity, small agencies like the Federation of lakes of Val-des-Monts could, if it had sufficient resources, provide an on site presence and provide information to users to encourage them to participate in making changes to improve water quality.

Other concerns and problematic issues

  • Shoreline erosion (run-offs and introduction of phosphorus in waterways)

- including impacts caused by forestry, gravel and sand quarries.

  • Agricultural activities
  • Septic installations
  • Former dumps
  • Residential development
  • Beaver habitat management
  • Identification of spawning grounds and wetlands
  • Follow-up on water quality (having necessary funding for water testing and the resources to gather samples and interpret the results)
  • Shorelines (put in place replanting programs)
  • Incentive measures or regulations (or lack of) to limit the waves generated by motorboats on our lakes
  • Encourage lake residents, people on holidays and occasional users to adopt an eco-environmental approach.