SCUGOG: After months of planning and organization, a new multi-jurisdictional group tackling the issues affecting the health of Lake Scugog is getting down to work.
The Working Group For a Healthy Lake Scugog recently held its first meetings, bringing member organizations to the table to discuss the issues affecting the lake, including climate impact, nutrient run-off and subsequent weed growth. Chaired by Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew, the group includes representatives from the township, local environmental group Scugog Lake Stewards, Kawartha Conservation Authority and Parks Canada, which oversees the Trent-Severn Waterway. While not every member group has been able to meet in one place, another meeting is being planned for later this summer that will hopefully bring the membership together.
The inspiration for the group, said Councillor Drew, was partly from the shared experience in the 2007 carp die-off, in which hundreds of fish suddenly perished and washed up along the shoreline, which is suspected to have been the result of a viral infection in combination with low water levels that summer.
"In that situation," said the councillor recalling the carp incident, "it was a case of the township contacting one level of government and being passed along to another. It would have saved a lot of time if everyone knew who what everyone else's responsibilities were - and that way no one can walk away from the table."
Lake Stewards president Barb Karthein echoed the sentiment, describing the group as a way of "putting all of our eggs into one basket.
"We've been lobbying for a long time because we realize that unless we work together, we won't achieve our goals," she said. "We're pushing research and a couple of 'do's'."
Among the objectives the group is working toward is the development of plans regarding ongoing weed harvesting and the use of weevils in controlling the invasive milfoil that has choked parts of the lake. The township's annual weed harvest began early this year, said Councillor Drew, taking place in early July with a second round under consideration for August.
A request to harvest in June, prior to events such as the Dragon Flies dragon boat festival and Canada Day festivities, was turned down by Parks Canada on account of the potential impact on local fish populations.
The role of the Lake Stewards weevil project has also been examined by the group, a pilot project which began in 2009 and has seen milfoil crops near the test site decrease every summer since, as the aquatic insects devoured the invasive vegetation.
Ms. Karthein said that while a second weevil application has been discussed, it would take additional funding to undertake the project a second time, adding that should the time come, the Stewards have considered using fewer insects in a larger area to gauge their effectiveness as biological weed control.
Talks have also turned to the use of different techniques such as dredging the lake bottom in areas and aeration in the control of weeds, which Councillor Drew said will require further analysis and the involvement of multiple organizations. While aeration didn't generate much enthusiasm from the group's members, said the councillor, dredging the southwestern bay of the lake (along the Hwy. 7A causeway and between the Port Perry and Scugog Island shorelines) may be seriously considered, a project requiring a number of environmental assessments, approvals and likely additional funding.
Although the larger items on the list such as dredging will require planning and approvals over a period of years, Councillor Drew told The Standard that discussions within the group have already yielded some results, such as clarification over the issue of debris and dead weed removal from the lake's surface, which the township is in fact permitted to carry out.
As part of the group's work, the Lake Stewards are also looking for a boat-owning volunteer to assist in monthly monitoring of lake conditions in that area during the spring, summer and fall. For more information, contact Ms. Karthein at 905-985-0958 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We need to have a greater understanding of the lake and to also see what's causing a nuisance for residents," said Ms. Karthein. "It's a big lake and next year, it may be totally different.