Muskoka asks property owners to report their spring water levels

Bala, Muskoka Photo by Shutterstock/LesPalenik

Muskoka water levels are of concern to cottagers. Now, the District of Muskoka is asking property owners on Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Joseph to measure and report their spring water levels by June 5.

“We’re asking residents on those lakes to take a water level measurement from the top of their docks or the top of their boathouse docks to the water surface,” says Phil Harding, the mayor of Bala, Ont. “What we’re trying to do is get a baseline of how high the infrastructure is on the waterways.”

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This data will be provided to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to amend the Muskoka River Water Management Plan, which Harding says needs to be updated. Implemented in 2006, the plan informs the MNRF of how to regulate the lakes’ water flow through dams.

The plan outlines the normal operating zone for the Muskoka watershed. It also includes high level marks and low level marks within the normal operating zone. If water levels surpass the high level mark, flooding becomes a concern.

Despite a slow spring melt, this year’s water levels have surpassed the high mark by three to four inches. This had many property owners in the area concerned, particularly after Muskoka Lakes Township, Huntsville, and Bracebridge declared states of emergency in 2019 due to severe flooding. “We had 90 to 95 per cent of structures well underwater,” Harding says.

A spokesperson for the MNRF stated over email, however, that “Lake Muskoka is within normal water levels for this time of year. Flooding is not anticipated on Lake Muskoka or within the Muskoka watershed; water levels on both Lake Muskoka and Bala Bay (on Lake Muskoka) are decreasing and we anticipate they will continue to do so over the coming days. MNRF continues to maintain communication with all dam operators on the Muskoka system regarding water levels and planned operations.”

Harding concurs with the MNRF and says that flooding isn’t currently an issue as water levels in the area’s lakes have been dropping for the past week.

Despite there being no risk of flooding, Harding does understand that there are some people who will be travelling north to check on their properties. While the District of Muskoka is still trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by discouraging cottagers from travelling, Harding says if they do come, “we are telling people to isolate.”

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