PARRY SOUND - There’s no question Georgian Bay’s water level is dropping, but what can be done about it?
Georgian Bay crisis.
Jamie McGarvey, centre, mayor of Parry Sound, oversaw an open forum Wednesday afternoon that featured community leaders from across Georgian Bay. The attendees discussed the problems caused by the Bay’s lowered water level and discussed what needs to be done about it.
Roland Cilliers/Beacon Star
Mayors, reeves and one First Nation’s chief representing communities all across Georgian Bay came together Wednesday to answer that question. Over the roughly three hour meeting, the group developed a resolution, discussed the many aspects of the problem and selected two members to sit on a working committee that’s focused on the issue.
Jamie McGarvey, mayor of Parry Sound, said he felt the meeting was a success.
“We need to all be dealing with this to protect our Great Lakes,” McGarvey said. “I think it’s a fantastic resolution that’s coming forward, and we’ll move ahead with it. What we need to deal with is both the immediate solutions and the long -term ones and that’s what this was all about. Everybody was certainly appreciative that everyone did what they did. They were all here to work on this, and I think there was a good cross-section and certainly great success.”
The bulk of the meeting was spent developing the bullet points for a resolution that would be sent by all affected municipalities to the officials at the provincial and federal governments.
The resolution, touches on a variety of concerns the municipalities have including recommending sustainable development, a moratorium on further St. Clair river dredging, and asking the federal and provincial governments to recognize that Georgian Bay is in crisis.
McGarvey said the goal of the whole thing is to impress on higher levels of government that action on the water level problem is required.
“They have three priorities. They are drink-ability, swim-ability and fish-ability. Water levels affect all three of those, and so you have to deal with the low water levels if you’re going to maintain those three categories. I think what we’ve done here is focus on all of the issues so we can have that and maintain what we have,” McGarvey said.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers all the Great Lakes are well below their average levels while Lake Huron and Michigan have hit their lowest levels on record. The low levels have already had an economic effect by forcing tankers to carry lighter loads. In Georgian Bay, the low levels have caused many island properties to be unreachable.
Peter Ketchum, reeve of the Township of Archipelago, proposed another option for getting government attention to the issue. He asked the assembled leaders to consider declaring a state of emergency as a result of the low water levels.
“This is an emergency. It’s not just for your own municipality, but it’s pervasive across the whole Georgian Bay. Wouldn’t that resound? Wouldn’t that do something, because what we’re talking about is a disaster, and a whole lot of work has to be done. It’s not dramatic as a 10 minute or half-hour hurricane admittedly, but what’s left over is pretty dramatic. You’ve got a whole bunch of residences that can’t be used. You’ve got marinas and businesses that cant be used. Isn’t that a disaster?” said Ketchum.
Those opposed to Ketchum’s idea, pointed out that while they want to get the government’s attention they don’t want to scare away tourists.