Fall 2002 Newsletter

Ashfield Colborne Lakeshore Association News
October, 2002

Nutrient Management Act -- Bill 81 Passed by Ontario Legislature

The long-awaited Nutrient Management Act (Bill 81) was passed by the Ontario Legislature in June, 2002, and initiates a first step in the formalization of new approaches to the handling of livestock manure by farmers, as well as the fertilizers used. The first round of consultations on the regulations took place in Clinton in September, and focused on the content of the required nutrient management plans, identification of farm categories, and a new definition of 'nutrient units', which replace the former 'animal units'. Two additional rounds of consultation will follow in the months ahead.

Farms will now be classified according to how many nutrient units they produce rather than the number of animal units. In many ways this is an improved approach because now a variety of nutrients can be included in the management plans, including biosolids and chemical fertilizers.

Livestock operations producing 300 nutrient units or more, termed Category IV, include, for example, 150 dairy cows or 1800 finishing pigs. The legislation sets no maximum number of livestock or nutrient units in the proposed regulations. The limiting factor will be availability of land for spreading manure. It is proposed that all new or expanding operations in Category IV will have to comply with the new regulations as of March 2003. Existing farm operations in this category will need to comply in 2004. Note however that where building permits were obtained prior to March 31, 2003, these regulations will not apply until 2004 in the case of large operations. All agricultural operations, including non-live-stock, will be required to submit nutrient management plans by 2008.

The Second Round of consultations will address specifics contained in most municipal Nutrient Management Plan by-laws, such as the siting of barns, land application of manure, etc. The Third Round will include regulations dealing with livestock access to waterways, manure haulage and transfer, and dead animal disposal.

Helen Johns, Minister of Agriculture, and MP for Huron, made it clear in her closing remarks that the Ministry of Environment will be responsible for enforcement of regulations, while her ministry will approve Nutrient Management Plan submissions. It is our observation that neither MOE nor local conservation authorities will have substantial input into these approvals.

What do the new regulations mean for our township? Simply put, all local nutrient management by-laws will be overridden by the regulations. The only area that seems to remain under municipal control is the granting of building permits, which are issued under the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) formula. The MDS formula is based on Animal Units and addresses odour issues only.

Mrs. Johns stated that all recommendations from the Walkerton Inquiry would be incorporated in the Act's regulations, although it remains unclear at this point how this will be accomplished.

Clearly, the purpose of the new Nutrient Management Act and related regulations is to facilitate and not limit or otherwise restrict the ongoing expansion of intensive livestock farming in Ontario while controlling the conditions under which they will operate.

If you are interested in finding out more on this new legislation and the proposed regulations, complete information is available on the Ministry website.

2002 ACLA Survey Seeks Views on Major Local Concerns

At the beginning of August 2002 the Association distributed approximately 600 photocopied opinion surveys to our member Beach Associations, seeking feedback on a variety of local issues. 208 completed surveys have been received and are being evaluated. While this is not an overwhelming response, it is still a respectable return. We expect to publish the final results later in October.

It is quite apparent from reading the various comments that there are many lakeshore residents who either do not know of our existence and/or have only limited knowledge of the Association's objectives. This is especially true of people who have no Internet access and rely on regular mail or word of mouth information. There are many pleas to remember those who have no access to electronic mail. Readers who have ideas on compiling an address list of lakeshore residents, please let us know.

We thought it was important to provide ACLA input to the discussions concerning the new Land Use Plan for our township. Since the survey touched on many of the issues discussed during the public meetings in July and September we sent pertinent excerpts from the survey to ACW Council and the Huron County Planning Department as our input to the planning process.

On October 1, 2002 council debated whether to change the ward system for the 2003 municipal election. Again we felt that it was important for council to know the results of the survey concerning the ward system. The appropriate information was e-mailed to the clerk and distributed to councilors before the debate. We were informed that the ward system would remain unchanged.

Geene Barns Building Permit Rescinded On Technicality

Many in our community supported Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Huron Kinloss (CCCofHK) in its application to the court for an order quashing (or rescinding) the building permit issued to the Geene family for the construction near Amberley of a 6000 pig barn.

The permit was rescinded due to various technicalities specific to this case only. CCCofHK was awarded costs and settled upon a recovery of $100,000, half of which was paid by the Township of Huron Kinloss and half by the Geenes. CCCofHK's lawyer, Valerie M'Garry, delivered accounts totalling $215,679, inclusive of her fees and disbursements for experts' reports, transcripts, etc. These accounts were paid from the costs recovery of $100,000 and from community donations, which totalled $120,834 as of September 23rd. CCCofHK has issued a brief financial statement and an update is posted on the ALERT website.

CCCofHK is also involved in a related OMB hearing. HK Township passed a zoning bylaw, creating a 'buffer zone' along a band of land immediately east of the lakeshore, limiting a prospective barn size to 450 livestock units (which, for example, would be an 1800 weaner to market pig operation). Some area farmers, including Geene, have appealed the by-law to the Ontario Municipal Board requesting a removal of agricultural restrictions; and are being supported in their challenge by OMAFRA (the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food). HK Township is defending its by-law and is being supported by CCCofHK. The OMB hearing was scheduled to begin in September; but has been adjourned until April 14th, 2003.

Geenes Seek New Permit For 3000 Pig Barn, Also Building Granaries

The Geenes have applied for a new permit for the construction of a 3000 pig barn on the same site (Township of Huron Kinloss, concession 2, east of Highway 21). According to an article published in The Lucknow Sentinel on October 9th, the Geenes have satisfied all requirements; and the issue of a permit is imminent. The Geenes also obtained a permit for the construction of granaries or silos on this HK site; and work is already in progress on this project. Since the last newsletter, the Geenes have constructed and installed a 25,000 broiler chicken operation in ACW Township; the barn is situated on the lake side, west of Highway 21 and south of Amberley, on a property contiguous to the north bank of the 18 Mile River.

New Official Plan Being Readied for the Township

ACW Township is in the process of developing a new Official Plan, being a foundation policy document governing land use in this community. The Township has conducted two series of public meetings, facilitated by planners from the County of Huron. The first series of three meetings was to receive public input identifying issues of concern related to three areas, namely, the natural environment; agricultural and economic development; and settlement areas, including the lakeshore communities and servicing.

The second series of three meetings was to receive from the public practical suggestions to address the issues identified in the first meetings. There appears to be overwhelming support for the vision of our Township to become an environmental leader. The many land use planning issues identified and suggestions offered included topics like water quality, septage management and septic systems, roads, beach access, lake bank protection, environmentally sensitive areas, wetlands and swamp protection, gully erosion, tile drains, liquid manure management, buffering, etc.

Having regard to the public input, the planners will now confer with the ACW council, have one more public meeting next winter and then, prepare a draft plan and receive public comment thereon. Before the planners put pens to paper (or, fingers to keyboard), the opportunity exists for you to communicate your issues and suggestions.

Refer to the Township website and then, phone, fax, snail mail, or e-mail either of the County of Huron planners, Scott Tousaw and Joyce Wilson, County of Huron Planning Office, 1 Court House Square, Goderich, ON N7A 1M2; phone (519)524-2188; fax (519)524-5677; e-mail: joyce_wilson@fcmail.avonmaitland.on.ca.

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Annual Report

The latest report, by Mr. Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner has just been published. Mr. Miller reports independently to the legislature, and has been very effective at "holding up the mirror" to the government and the people of the Province regarding environmental issues. The title and theme for this year's ECO report is "Developing Sustainability". These annual reports are easy to follow, factual, and provide a terrific insight into the environmental issues impacting all of us. Copies are available at no charge by calling 1-800-701-6454. You can also visit the ECO web-site.

Explanation Sought on Municipal Tax Increases

95% of the responses in the recent ACLA Survey rated property taxes as an issue of medium or high concern. The lakefront area pays approximately 43% of the property taxes in A-C-W.

There are 3 main components in the tax bill in addition to any special service charges such as garbage collection, water etc. Two of these components are Education, and County (provides for services provided County-wide). In total they account for about 61% of the total property tax revenue raised, and the rate of increase over the past 2 years was within a normally expected range.

The third component, the remaining 39%, is the Municipal portion or the money raised by A-C-W to provide services at the Township level. These costs have risen sharply over the past 2 years. In 2001, the first year of amalgamation, Council approved a 45% increase in the total municipal taxes to be raised for the newly amalgamated community.

With reassessment taking place for 2001, the tax rate needed to be adjusted only slightly upwards to generate the large increase in taxation, because assessments rose significantly over the 2000 figures. It may not have been readily apparent to Council that this was what was happening at the time because year-end information from the predecessor municipalities was late in coming, and there were changes in administrative personnel taking place. It did not go unnoticed by taxpayers, and it should certainly have been evident when the 2002 budget was being prepared. Normally, when total assessments rise, tax rates are adjusted downwards. We do know that the new Township has had some unusual capital costs to contend with in its first two years of operation, and has extended road paving efforts, but we have seen no indication that these need to continue.

The time has come for Council to provide a better explanation of its Budget plans, short and long term , incorporating performance measurement and benchmarking for its operations. Next year, 2003, and 2004 as well, are both scheduled for assessment updates and we do not want the same sort of revenue increase to slip in as a side effect. We really don't know the major reasons why it costs significantly more to run the township post amalgamation. In future, a simple 1 to 2 page summary, by major category, of spending and revenue, a comparison of these to the previous year, an explanation for reasons for any major changes, and any significant directions in spending priorities should be provided.

We will be providing a more detailed brief to Council this fall on the 2003 and 2004 budgeting and tax rate setting process incorporating the above information and recommending ACLA and other public participation in the Budget process. You can support this direction by contacting members of Council and express your opinion. Contact information is provided on the Township's insert in the Fall 2002 Tax Bill, or you can find it on their website.

Area Beaches Saved By Dry Summer -- Testing Shows E.coli Levels Down

2002 has proven to be a very dry, sun filled summer. As a result beach E.coli levels and beach closures have been at the lowest level in the last decade. Despite these favourable results ACLA became increasingly concerned about the significant reduction in ACW lake tests and test dates. On August 26th four ACLA members met with Huron County Health Unit (HCHU) officials to discuss our concerns. Present from HCHU were the Medical Officer of Health, the Administrator, one of the Medical Health Inspectors and the manager responsible for the stream testing. ACLA pointed out that the number of tests at ACW Lake Huron beaches had dropped from a 2001 total of 106 to a 2002 total of 44.

We were concerned that there were significant gaps in test dates…even following dates with high results. We also renewed our request that streams at public beaches be posted with signs warning swimmers of high pollution levels.

HCHU stated that test dates dropped for several reasons. Almost no testing was done in June due to the very low water temperatures resulting in very few swimmers in the water. Unfortunately, HCHU did not continue testing through September when beaches were still busy due to above average water temperatures.

Fewer tests were done due to the fact that they now use two testers rather than one for safety reasons, hence fewer hours and fewer tests. ACLA volunteered to work with HCHU to assist it in better organizing its testing operations and provide volunteers to assist in getting the testing back to levels acceptable to ACW residents.

There was a good exchange of thoughts. The meeting concluded with HCHU agreeing to present their plan for 2003 testing and agreeing to work with ACLA on working towards a solution.

Stream Testing Continues To Show E.coli Contamination

By the time you read this we will have completed 12 of our 16 stream testing sessions. You will remember that this year we decided to concentrate on the three streams on the advice of Maitland Valley Conservation Authority that created the greatest pollution load on the lake in 2001. Load is the combination of average flow multiplied by the average pollution rate.

In 2002 we are testing 5 sites on Kerry's Creek, 6 on 9-Mile River and 5 on Boundary Creek. On each stream the test sites range from where they pass under highway 21 and work east. We are attempting to locate specific sources of pollution entering the streams between the test points.

Once again the results are almost always in excess of Provincial Water Quality Guidelines for recreational water. To date this year only one test date followed significant rainfall. On May 29th (a test date following several days of dry weather) the average E.coli level for the 15 test sites was 48 parts /100 ml. On June 12 a test date following 2 days of significant rainfall) the average test score was 8367 parts/100 ml…. an increase of 174 times.

While it is too early to make definite conclusions regarding the results, it is obvious that pollution does increase significantly at certain points.

Thanks to the cottage associations and individuals who contributed to the cost of this project. Special thanks to ACW Township for their donation of $1,500.

Botulism Blamed for Dead Fish and Birds on the Huron Shore

Botulism is the likely cause of the alarming number of dead fish and birds on area beaches. John Cooper of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Lake Unit said the high incidence of dead birds and fish in the area is uncommon although similar kills have been seen along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shores in recent years.

Botulism is occurring on a more frequent basis in the Great Lakes; Lake Erie and Lake Huron were hit with a severe case in 1999, when at least 1,000 birds, both loons and gulls, died. This is Type E Botulism and it is found in the soil at the bottom of the lake. The strain is inert until it's in a place with no oxygen, like a fish or invertebrate. Then together with a protein source, it develops into a toxin.

Most outbreaks of the disease have happened in mid-September to mid-October, Cooper said. As the lake begins to cool, the sinking and mixing of the cooler surface water will displace the warmer and lighter water below. This causes the invertebrates from the bottom to be pushed up, making them more likely to join the food chain. Once in the fish, the host will suffer a loss of strength and muscular paralysis. The dead birds are scavengers, and feed on the fish carcasses.

Station Beach in Kincardine had 10 dead fish and six seagulls. Point Clark and Inverhuron beaches were also ripe with rotting fish, as is most of the Lake Huron shoreline. Although botulism can be deadly to humans, there is no immediate threat. There is apparently no threat to the drinking water or to swimmers, although dead fish should not be eaten.

>ACLA Accomplishments and Opportunities in Review

ACLA accomplishments include the following:

Opportunities to get involved abound! If you have not yet identified yourself as a potential helper and volunteer on your completed survey, please get in touch with us. See the contact list at the end of this Newsletter.

Staying In Touch: Adding Your Name To Our e-mail or Mail Lists

ACLA wants to establish a network of all interested residents in this ACW lakeshore community. E-mail is the cheapest means of communicating. If you are not already receiving communication by e-mail, let us know of an e-mail address where we can reach you. (If you have no Internet service, consider providing us with the e-mail address of a contact such your son, daughter, friend or neighbour.)

Provide barbarafoell@hurontel.on.ca with your e-mail address, your telephone number, and your '911 address'; and we will assign you to a communication co-ordinator. If you have no e-mail address or contact, telephone Barbara Foell 395-4909 (seasonal) or (519) 885-1715 (please leave a detailed message with a phone number) and we will contact you to discuss other communication possibilities.

The ACLA appreciates your continued support.