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Elgin County Shoreline Management Plan
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Peter Zuzek

There was a pretty good turnout of interested and concerned people at both the afternoon and evening sessions of Elgin County's Shoreline Management Plan Open House in Port Stanley on August 27, 2014. Erosion rates along this stretch of shoreline have been as much as 14 feet per year.

The County of Elgin, its shoreline municipalities and conservation authorities are undertaking a joint Shoreline Management Plan for the Elgin County shoreline. The management plan will establish accurate coastal hazard maps to assist stakeholders and regulators to evaluate future development permits and assess infrastructure at risk along the Lake Erie shoreline. To this end they hired W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers Ltd. out of Oakville, Ontario.

An important part of the planning process is to inform the public and get feedback on these issues. Peter Zuzek from Baird & Associates gave a presentation explaining what processes they used to look at and calculate erosion rates and do hazard mapping. The provide guides for appropriate land use above the lake, taking into account the 1 to 4 meters per year erosion rate. Anyone who lives within spitting distance of the Lake Erie shoreline knows that erosion is an on-going, land-gobbling process.

A stable slope is a 3:1 ratio, three meters out for every meter up. When assessing stability and appropriate land uses, you start with the 100 year high water level, add the stable slope distance and then add another 15 meters of discretionary land to come up with the building/development envelope for any piece of shoreline land. Where the development is on sandy beachfront, you start with the 100 year high water flood up rush distance, add the dynamic beach distance, and then add another 15 meters of discretionary land to calculate how far back from the water's edge development can take place. With either high cliffs or sandy beaches, the goal is to locate new development away from the hazard for at least 100 years.

The short gist of what Zuzek had to say is that Baird & Associates are advocating Managed Retreat as the Shoreline Management Plan. He says that Managed Retreat is the only feasible option from an economic, social and environmental perspective. He said there is not a cost benefit to armour stone along the shoreline (which costs $3,000 to $5,000 per meter) as it has to be done over a very long stretch of shoreline or else you will have flank erosion on both sides where the armour stone stops. There is also a maintenance issue with armour stone. Groynes also have a negative impact on neighbouring properties, causing increase erosion just beyond the groynes.

Peter noted we already have a long history of closing roads and relocating homes and trailers and that we should only try to hold the line at existing port communities that already have some shoreline protection. When asked about farmland just eroding into the lake, Peter said the Conservation Authorities Act does not speak to preserving agricultural land.

At the evening meeting Shirley Barr noted that the government was involved in shoring up the Scarborough Bluffs to save those homes and that project was very successful.

Nigel Howcroft thought the 100 year mark for the policy was problematic as the whole problem will repeat itself in 100 years. He thought new development should be kilometres back regarding keeping generations to come out of harm's way.

But the most interesting idea came from William Funston of Port Bruce. He suggested the government armour stone the entire shoreline of Lake Erie. and then allow property owners to sell off premium building lots all along the shoreline. He said the government could fund it by issuing bonds and could recover the money from property taxes over 25 years. A simple amendment to the Provincial Policy would allow these building lots to be sold, and have the ultimate effect of protecting and preserving the farmland behind them. He said Baird & Associates were making the same mistake as the government in undervaluing agricultural lands.

Francie Dennison agreed with Howcroft's assessment of the problem simply recurring, noting that with climate change and increasing world populations, our agricultural land and ability to feed ourselves and others was critically important and only going to become an even higher priority as populations increased. Agreeing with Funston that they were undervaluing our agricultural land, she also agreed that Managed Retreat was not a good option in the long term. Zuzek said they were hired by the four Conservation Authorities and their scope was limited to Elgin County, too limited for a proposal such as the one Funston made.

Richard Haddow also liked Funston's idea and also noted that it would create a lot of jobs in both the shoreline work and home building work, bolstering the Ontario economy.

There were no comments forthcoming from the elected officials present, Councillor Dan McNeil and Deputy Mayor/County Warden David Marr.

The public has until September 12, 2014 to make comments on the Elgin County Shoreline Management Plan; by mail, fax or email:
Kettle Creek Conservation Authority
44015 Ferguson Line
St. Thomas, ON
N5P 3T3
Fax: 519-631-5026

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