How Do I?
We all care about the health of our lakes but who is looking after lake health? Governments of all stripes are cutting back on the people and programs that used to protect our lakes and give us up to date data on lake health indicators. Lake associations can help fill this void but only if all of us step up individually and become Lake Protectors.
What can we do to make a difference? The C.H.A. has some of the most knowledgeable lake health scientists in Canada as scientific advisors and we asked them that the question.
Based on their advice here are the most powerful steps you can take to protect your lake:
- Keep your septic system healthy; septics are the # 1 contributor of phosphorous to our lakes in Haliburton County. The more phosphorous the greater the chance of an algae blooms.
- take 20 minutes and watch “Poop Talk“ and then take action by:
- Keeping anything that can kill bacteria out of your septic system
- Minimize and spread out the use of water
- Have your system inspected by an inspector who will take the lid off and do a proper physical inspection
- Have your tank pumped every 3-5 years
- Renaturalize your shoreline – natural shorelines deliver incredible benefits
- Filtering out pollutants such as phosphorous before it gets into the lake
- Providing habitat for all sorts of life that supports healthy loons, frogs, fish etc. Remember 80-90% of all life in your lake depends on natural shorelines
- Learn about the importance of Natural Shorelines by watching the Ribbon of Life video
Keep in mind even a small area with native plants will help. If you have grass to the lake – simply stop cutting all or part of it and nature will re naturalize the area over time.
- Vote for people who care about and will act to protect our lakes - Municipally, Provincially and Federally. The last few years have seen major cutbacks at organizations that are responsible for lake health such as The MNR, Ministry of Environment, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and many more. The C.H.A. has the opportunity to work with many of these organizations and know that the people left are passionate about their jobs and work very hard. They need our support. Let the politicians know that the health of your lake is very important to you.
- Support your lake association – the volunteers who hold positions with our local lake associations are fabulous people who give up much of their personal time to be Lake Protectors. They need your support.
- Volunteer for as little as 1-2 hours a year and help out.
- Stop them on the street or at your AGM and say "thank you!" Trust me. It will mean a lot.
If each of us becomes a Lake Protector our children will be able to enjoy some of our favourite things
- The call of the loon
- Frogs by the shore
- Swimming in a clear, clean lake
Author Paul MacInnes, Chair of the C.H.A., is a passionate Lake Protector
Canada Geese over-concentrations are a common problem on Haliburton shorelines these days. This article is about foiling these potential foulers!
For a variety of reasons, Canada Geese love lawns or areas where the vegetation is cut low on shorelines. They are a tundra species that feels at home in open areas with unobstructed sight lines for safety reasons. They like to take their young up onto lawn-like open areas to forage where it is easier to see any approaching predators such as foxes or coyotes. They also love to eat the high carbohydrate shorter grasses offered up by lawns or lawn-like environments created by humans bringing suburbia to cottage country. This food then turns into up to pound of feces a day fouling properties and adding E-Coli to the lake.
The key to discouraging Canada Geese from congregating on shoreline open spaces is to make sure that they see a wall of plant material at least 24" high when they look at a shoreline from the water and not large expanses of inviting manicured lawns,
Leora Berman, from "The Land Between" organization, has just completed a shoreline Canada Geese control project at Head Lake Park in the Town of Haliburton. Large numbers of geese had caused the public beach area to be closed due to E-Coli contamination for many years.
Berman studied how the geese were using the area surrounding the park for two years before designing her control strategy. The geese used one area for nesting in the early spring, a second for feeding the young before they learn to fly and a third, the main park area, for foraging during the lead up to the annual southern migration.
Lines of "flashing tape" were used to discourage Geese from using the nesting area while rows of vegetation, planted perpendicular to the shoreline every 20 meters, were employed to giving adult geese a sight line camouflaging the lawn-like fledgling feeding zone.
The result has been a ninety percent drop in the geese population in Head Lake Park, dramatically reduced fouling of park open spaces, and a beach that's once again open for swimming.
Canada Geese are an iconic national symbol for most Canadians. Unwittingly, humans have created open spaces that extend a virtual invitation to these majestic birds to congregate in non-traditional areas creating all sorts of conflicts in the process. Many now consider the geese as pests but the problem has been caused by us, not them.
Having created the problem it is now up to us to understand the impact of what we have done and to find ways to eliminate or minimize the root causes of problem geese populations.
So help your lake and yourself by planting native plants that grow to 24” or higher on your shoreline and Foil Those Fouling Geese.
Author Terry Moore is Research Director for the C.H.A. and a Lake Steward on Halls/Hawk Lakes
This past September the Canadian Audubon Society released a study predicting that our children and grandchildren may not hear the call of the loon around our lakes.
As lakefront owners talk, people with long experience on the lakes tell stories of
- how many more frogs, fish, crayfish etc. there used to be
- how the lake water was so much clearer and
- how algae and weed growth are increasing
Many wonder if the things they take for granted are threatened.
Let’s explore one issue – Algae and Blue Green Algae Blooms in order to help us understand how things have changed.
Here is a chart from the MOE showing the rapid increase in Algal Blooms.
We used to think that protecting our lakes from algae and most importantly blue/green algal blooms was simple. If we kept our phosphorous levels below a certain range then we were safe. But over the last few years algae blooms have occurred more and more frequently in lakes that previously were thought to have safe levels of phosphorous. The best lake health scientists are starting to understand that our lakes are being affected by what’s called – Multiple Stressors.
What are those stressors and how do they relate to increasing danger of algal blooms?
Decrease in Calcium levels – is leading to fewer Daphnia and less healthy Daphnia in our lakes. These tiny creatures are known as the living lawn mower for their ability to eat algae and thus keep algae levels under control.
Increased invasive species – Example – in Lake Nippising which used to have the 5th largest fresh water fish population in Canada, the invasion of spiny water fleas has had very serious effects. As these fleas die they use up incredible quantities of oxygen in the lake water. As the oxygen levels drop, the phosphorous that has built up in the sediment on the bottom of the lake (from our septic systems) is released into the water column - increasing algae growth. The fishery is Lake Nippising is now virtually destroyed.
Increasing Lake Temperatures – due to Climate Change our lakes are 1-2 degrees warmer than they were a decade ago – warmer water holds less oxygen and increases algae growth.
Scientists are looking at many more possible stressors and state that they do not have all the answers they would like to have – more research is needed. (One scary piece of info is that the Dorset Environmental Science Centre is one of the key places where this research takes place – yet their staff has been cut by almost 2/3 in the last decade)
So will we continue to hear the call of the loon? – Perhaps it’s up to us.
Author Paul MacInnes, Chair of the C.H.A., is a Passionate Lake Protector