Muskoka resort fined $225,000 for dredging local river

Dredging Muskoka River Photo by Shutterstock/pkajak201

Bracebridge’s Ontario Court of Justice has convicted a local Muskoka resort and its president of violating the province’s Public Lands Act, fining them a combined total of $225,000.

Between May 2018 and July 2019, Brian Coldin, president of High Falls Resort in Bracebridge, dredged a section of the Muskoka River fronting the resort property without a permit. He then filled the shoreline with several loads of sand, grading the sand to create a beach for guests.

The local authorities were alerted to the unauthorized shoreline work in 2018 and issued Coldin a stop-work order to prohibit further shoreland filling. But in the spring of 2019, high water levels washed away the deposited sand, and Coldin, in contravention to the stop-work order, re-filled the shoreline with sand.

The Public Lands Act has strict rules around shoreline maintenance to protect the province’s freshwater systems. Local municipalities may grant a work permit to maintain, repair, or replace erosion control structures, such as retaining walls to prevent run-off into the water. But the act prevents private individuals from shoreline dredging and filling, especially without a permit.

Coldin appeared in court on Sept. 27 in front of Justice of the Peace Carolyn Noordegraaf. The court convicted Coldin and the Muskoka resort of three counts of filling shorelands without a permit, one count of dredging shorelands without a permit, and one count of disobeying a stop-work order.

As part of the conviction, the court fined Coldin $40,000, plus a surcharge of $10,000, and it fined High Falls Resort $140,000, plus a surcharge of $35,000.

This isn’t the first time the High Falls Resort has been in trouble with the law. In 2011, the Muskoka resort was convicted for unlawfully filling shorelands and was issued a probation order. The court took this into account when setting Coldin and the resort’s fine amounts.

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