Lakeshore Environmental Strategy

2011-11-25: update from Mike McElhone

Healthy Lake Huron: Clean Water, Clean Beaches

This group was formed as the result of combined political pressure applied by ACLA, Bluewater Shoreline Residents Association, and the Bayfield Ratepayers Association. It is made up of representatives of 21 government agencies and is focused on improving beach water quality from Tobermory to Sarnia. The website highlights the first projects to be started. The project that has been selected in ACW by the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority is the Garvey/Glen drain that empties into Mid-Huron beach.

2009-09-20: Updates from Mike McElhone

Meeting with MOE

As indicated recently the combined briefing of our lakeshore councils and other officials in July went well. Several council members have mentioned how impressed they were.

On Wednesday Nigel Bellchamber (Amberley) and I went to Toronto with Jan Purvis (president of Bluewater Shoreline Residents Association), Dave McLaren (President of Bayfield Ratepayers Association), and Phil Beard (General Manager, MVCA) to meet with Ministry of the Environment officials.

Representing MOE was Brenda Lucas (Senior Policy Advisor on Water to the Minister), Carolyn O'Neil (Manager of the Great Lakes Office), Richard Raeburn-Gibson (Project Manager - Great Lakes Programmes) and Lee Orfun (Manager - London Branch).

We were given an hour and a half to make a presentation and conduct further discussion.

Nigel gave an expanded version of the briefing presentation emphasizing that the prime cause of beach water pollution is agricultural runoff and that results are worsening despite attempts at remediation. We made it clear that we want money for measurable projects aimed at new solutions. We ended by requesting a meeting with the Ministers of Environment, Natural Resources and OMAFRA.

There were no objections to our presentation or research. The MOE personnel concurred that there is a problem.

Annual report to ACW Council

I will be making our yearly presentation to ACW council on Tuesday the 22nd.

Huron County Health Unit, 2009 beach water-quality results

HCHU have completed beach water testing for the year. The results are not encouraging.

Nigel and Dave McLaren made a presentation to the Huron County Board of Health in early September outlining our concerns and recommending that there be no cutback in beach testing. We have since been informed that testing in 2010 will be identical to 2009. It was pointed out to the board that the informal indicator of (don't swim if you can't see your feet in waist deep water) is wrong about 47% of the time. The board was encouraged to adopt a real time predictive model similar to one of the four being used in the U.S. Great Lakes. These are proving to be accurate between 85% to 95%.

Thanks for your continued support.
Mike McElhone

2009-07-23: Shoreline groups meet with local Councils

On Thursday night (July 23rd) ACLA in cooperation with Bluewater Shoreline Residents Association, Friends of the Bayfield River, and Bayfield Ratepayers Association held a briefing on lake water quality. Invited were our 39 lakeshore council members, our MPP, our MP, our Medical Officer of Health, the general managers of our two conservation authorities (Ausable Bayfield, and Maitland Valley), our Huron County Health Unit water-quality manager, and two representatives from the Huron County Federation of Agriculture.

The meeting exceeded expectations.

Attendance was excellent, with 23 of a possible 39 council members attending, and with all 5 mayors/reeves attending despite time conflicts for many of them. Six of a possible 7 council members from ACW attended, 6 of 10 from Bluewater, and 11 council members from Goderich, Central, and South Huron. Carol Mitchell, a representative from Ben Lobb's office, our CA general managers, Bob Worsell of HCHU, Wayne Black and Joe Vermunt of HCFA, and a rep from the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation attended.

Nigel Bellchamber of ACLA (Amberley Beach) gave a 30-minute presentation outlining the history of lake water problems, remedial actions taken, research done, the impact of tourism in the county, an acknowledgement of a possible crisis in farm market conditions, and finished with an appeal to the council members to work with us to gain funding for on-farm projects and research to eliminate agricultural runoff.

The response to the presentation seemed to be completely positive, with one council member asking that we form a mission statement so each council could vote to support it. Most comments were that the meeting was non-confrontational and positive. Most of the attendees remained for a reception held after the briefing that was hosted by the four lakefront associations.

We are asking for approximately 3 reps from the combined councils and 1 rep from our CAs to accompany reps from the lakefront associations to a meeting with ministry policy analysts in August to be followed up by meeting with cabinet ministers in the fall.

Thank you for your continued support!

2009-07-16: Lakeshore residents willing to work for improvements

[The following appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Goderich Signal-Star.]

As the weather warms up and visitors return to the beaches of Lake Huron they do so with some unfortunate news.

None of the beaches of Huron that applied for Blue Flag status, two in Goderich and the beach in Bayfield, achieved that status. The 2008 water quality testing results indicated they exceeded the standard for e-coli contamination too frequently.

These beaches failed to make standard even though there have been major investments over a number of years to eliminate urban sewage system discharges in these communities.

Rigorous scientific DNA testing conducted over a period of years for e-coli contamination in the Eighteen Mile River and adjacent waters of the lake at Ashfield Park by the University of Guelph and the provincial Ministry of the Environment, has conclusively determined that the major cause of said pollution and accompanying pathogens are largely a result of livestock waste entering the natural watercourses. To quote one scientist: "We don't need any more studies. What we need now is action!"

To that end, the Ashfield Colborne Lakeshore Association, the Bluewater Shoreline Residents Association, Friends of the Bayfield River and the Bayfield Ratepayers Association, have banded together to invite the Lake Huron shoreline municipal councils and the Conservation Authorities to meet with them to develop a joint strategy to approach the appropriate provincial cabinet ministers this fall to request provincial investment in the 2010 and 2011 budgets to develop the on-farm infrastructure needed to clean up our beaches.

Lakeshore residents in cooperation with the county and others have developed and implemented stewardship and septic inspection programs for their own facilities. It is now time to move inland but we recognize that external assistance is needed in order to enable individual farm owners to make the improvements needed. We are prepared to work with them to gain this assistance.

Infrastructure is more than roads and bridges. In the face of climate change it means investment in different on-farm storm water management practices, for instance, to protect everyones interest as just one example.

We have seen a lot of manufacturing jobs leave Huron. Our two key remaining core businesses are agriculture and tourism and they have a common investment need if either is to flourish in the long term.

We look forward to working with elected officials, locally and provincially, and with affected local organizations and individuals to make that investment a reality.

Written by Mike McElhone, ACLA Environmental Coordinator.