Update High Water

Below is a recent email from the MLA with a statement from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

Mid way down you will read a  reply from the MLA president on the subject.   I tend to agree with the MLA (see half way down) however everyone can have their own opinion.    We virtually  had very little snow to melt this winter compared to the last several years.    

As far as Brandy Lake goes…. we are a head water lake with no man made regulated in flow other than an old logging dam (many decades old) up stream across the road on Brandy Creek above the inrapids that we have no control of.   I believe the dam height has never been altered. 

I seem to have memories of consistent spring high water back to the 60’s.   Ya..we all have the favourite rock or tree.  

We flow into Muskoka and rapid outflow seems consistent over the years as well.   However..this is based on my opinion not instrumented testing however Peter Sale records manually from his dock but only the past several years. 

Our water peaked April 3 and today April 4th it has run out  3 meters lower on our flat property so it is dropping fast.

This is not a discussion read ..just for local information. 

………………….

Dear member,

We are writing today to provide you with an important update on the flood situation in Muskoka.  As you may be aware, lake levels have increased considerably over the last week.  While there are a number of differing opinions on whether this year’s flood was avoidable, the MLA is extremely concerned by the potential impact to our members, their property, and Muskoka in general. As you may recall, this issue has come to head in 3 of the last 4 spring run-off periods, starting with the major unexpected flood of April 2013.

The MLA has contacted both the District of Muskoka and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry last week on our member’s behalf, regarding flooding and excessive high lake water levels.

We were told the following from our formal inquires and requests for immediate action:

District of Muskoka:

“Flood management, warning and response is beyond the scope of the District of Muskoka’ s Environmental and Watershed Programs, and is actually coordinated by the Ministry of Natural Resources. We would suggest that you contact Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). 

Over the longer term, and on a broader subject, the District has recognized that climate change and the related impacts will require thoughtful and planned responses. In this regard, the Muskoka Watershed Council recently presented a report to Muskoka District Council which emphasized the need for short and long term action and coordination by a variety of government organizations and the broader community to address a range of concerns. Here is a link to the presentation”. https://muskoka.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/27577?preview=27580.

District of Muskoka

Environmental & Watershed Programs

March 31, 2016

After speaking directly with the Director of Muskoka’s Environmental and Watershed Programs, this group is only an advisory committee and has no major influence over the Muskoka River Watershed Management Plan or the MNRF’s establishment of water flows. When we reached out to MNRF, at senior levels, we received the following response, which essentially tells us we have to tough out the flood and it was out of MNRF control.

MNRF reply to MLA:

“All managed lakes within the Muskoka River system, including Lake Muskoka, are lowered throughout the winter to make room for the spring melt. The target drawn down date is around March 15th and usually by this time the dams are discharging water at their maximum capacity or being prepared to discharge at their maximum capacity depending on the status of the melt. The spring melt began earlier than normal this year with inflows picking up around March 11th   after a week of unseasonable warm temperatures. At this time MNRF continued preparing all the dams for maximum discharge beginning with Lake Muskoka at Bala. Once the dams are set for their maximum discharge lake levels will continue to rise as inflows also increase. As lakes rise with increased inflows MNRF monitors lake levels throughout the watershed. Once peak flows have passed at the lakes higher in the watershed the dams on those lakes are slowly closed to help reduce flows downstream. I’m afraid there is no opportunity at this time to reduce flows upstream prior to observing peak water levels as all those lakes that eventually drain into Lake Muskoka are also experiencing very high water levels.

We will be monitoring levels and flows through the weekend and will reduce flows from individual lakes upstream as their water levels begin to decline.

The MNRF’s primary role for flood preparation is flood forecast and warning as early as possible. Throughout the winter MNRF monitors the snow pack across the Muskoka River watershed to determine snow conditions and the water content contained within the snow pack. The condition of the snowpack also determines the extent of the winter drawdown. A daily weather watch is also maintained. This information is provided by the Ministry’s Surface Water Monitoring Centre (SWMC) and augmented by Environment Canada data and forecasts prepared by Environment Canada and the Weather Network. This information is combined with a daily measurement of watershed conditions, including snow pack depth and water content when applicable. Computer models use the information to determine flood potential based on soil conditions and snow pack conditions. Information from these computer models will assist MNRF in determining if a Flood Watch or Flood Warning will be issued.

MNRF dams are not flood control structures and are not designed to prevent a flood. If our analysis of the watershed and weather conditions indicates there is a possibility of high water or flood conditions, MNRF will issue appropriate water safety bulletins to media, First Nations and area municipalities.

As you know MNRF issued a Flood Watch on Sunday March 27th followed by a Flood Warning on March 31st.  These messages are meant to remind, prepare and warn people with homes or cottages in areas along lakes and rivers within known flood-prone locations that they should always be prepared for the possibility of flooding. This includes taking necessary action to secure any vulnerable property in close proximity to rivers and lakes and closely monitor developing conditions.

Floods are natural events and can occur in any given spring with the rapid melting of the snow pack combined with unfavorable weather conditions, including rainfall. The past four springs have been relentless given the combination of conditions that lead to high water.

At this time MNRF is monitoring the situation and will continue to provide appropriate water safety bulletins to media, First Nations and area municipalities as conditions change.”

Bracebridge Field Office

Parry Sound District

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

April 1, 2016

MLA President Opinion:

The MLA does not fully agree with the assessment from MNRF. It is clear from the Environment Canada Real-Time Water Level Network tracking system that the water levels were not drawn down as much in March 2016 as they were in 2015. There is almost a full 0.5 meter difference in the low level in March between these two years. Link attached for the source and a place where you can track daily water levels (suggest Beaumaris, Lake Muskoka is a good indicator). http://www.muskokawaterweb.ca/water-101/water-quantity/checking-levels

Real time data extract below as of 9am April 3, 2016 below:

Many of you have reached out to me personally or to the MLA office in the past week to voice your concern on this topic. As tax payers, property owners and recreational use citizens it is very unfortunate this has happened again. Many of us are dealing with extreme impacts to docking systems, boathouses and the shoreline. The extreme rainfall event, well outside normal in the March 30-31 period, could not have been predicted and built into the predicative models that execute the flow of the watershed. The MLA will continue to fight on your behalf to get this solved, with better tracking tools, predicative models and a higher level of government intervention to reduce floods in future that could have been proactively anticipated.

Note many of the roads in the Muskoka areas, typically prone to flooding, are now partly closed. Before making any travel in the near future, we suggest checking road closures in your area.

The MNRF issued the following statement today, April 4, 2015 on this situation:

Muskoka Parry Sound Freshet Water Conditions Update April 4th, 2016

MNRF Parry Sound District has issued a Flood Warning for known flood prone areas within the District. This Warning will be in effect until Tuesday April 5th 2016. 

Weather Forecast and Implications

After receiving between 40-60mm of rain from March 30th – 31st river flows have peaked and are currently declining. The rate of rise in lake levels has slowed significantly or stopped at some locations. The area is forecasted to receive up to 20cm of snow over the next few days as colder than normal temperatures move through the area. The minimal accumulation of new snow does not cause great concerns for impacts to water levels and flows at this time but MNRF crews will be measuring the local snow pack to access the remaining snow water content across the area.

The MNRF’s primary role for flood preparation is flood forecasting and warning as early as possible. For flood emergencies the local Municipality is responsible for flood preparedness and response. Once a local emergency is declared MNRF will work directly with the municipality and provide support in accordance with the MNRF District Emergency Response Operations Plan.

MNRF dams are managed in accordance with Water Management Plans or dam operating manuals and will continue to be operated for optimal discharge just prior to the onset of the spring snow melt. More information about how lakes in the area are managed can be found at: http://www.muskokawaterweb.ca/water-101/water-quantity/mrwmp

Inquiries from the public should be directed to our Water Management Department 705-646-5531

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