Prince Edward County Council receives shoreline management plan

ROAD WORK AHEAD- A washout of shoreline along County Rd 12 on Athol Bay in 2019. (Mitch McKibbon/For The Gazette)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

After experiencing several years of seasonal flooding due to elevated water levels in Lake Ontario, Prince Edward County Council received a preliminary shoreline management plan from Pete Zuzek and Seth Logan of Zuzek Inc., in concert with Quinte Conservation (QC) and SJL Engineering. Christine Philibert, Water Resources Manager at Quinte Conservation, joined Zuzek in his address to council at their last June 7th meeting.

Zuzek began by reminding council of the context in which his services came to be required.

“The high water on Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte in 2017 and 2019 affected land-owners, their shorelines and municipal infrastructure. During this time, I was invited by municipal staff to participate in regular emergency management meetings to discuss the forecasted water levels and concerns. These meetings prompted discussion on natural hazards and what could be done.”

To protect people, property and infrastructure, noted Zuzek, QC worked with both this municipality and others in the region to secure 50 per cent of funding through the national Natural Disasters Mitigation Fund in order to complete the shoreline management plan.

Zuzek noted his presentation would focus on recommendations compiled as a result of the work done.

“An important message is, while we’ve gotten this plan done, some of the other work is still to be done. There’s lots to be done to improve the resilience of the shoreline and protect it,” he added.

In his work, Zuzek stated both flooding limits and erosion limits have been defined “with respect to flooding record highs have resulted in flood levels being higher than historically been before.”

THE TIDE IS HIGH- (From left) Log Cabin Point Resort owner/operator and Athol Councillor Jamie Forrester speaks with then-Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis in 2019. (Submitted Photo)

He also stressed the importance of preserving natural shorelines.

“I want to highlight, we have this hierarchy when we come to solving problems…the first approach will always be to preserve natural shorelines. Nature itself is resilient,” expressed Zuzek.

Failing to preserve shoreline, he noted development should at least be avoided in hazardous areas. Zuzek explained the completed report details a host of methods to accommodate the new reality of flooding in the area and, finally, he raised the possibility of realigning roads or other structures in high- risk areas.

“As many will know, we have a lot of sections of road threatened by erosion. Those need to be addressed now,” he said. “Those are areas that require action. In Wellington, for example, there are historical areas close to the lake that are vulnerable to erosion and flooding. We’ve also found, in some cases, shoreline protection is not very well designed or engineered and that could be addressed.”

Zuzek also noted the many dynamic beaches in the county that deserve to be preserved for locals and visitors alike.

“Dynamic beaches and beaches in general are important….and they need to be managed and taken care of,” he commented.

He also mentioned the areas has a wealth of green space that is deserving of protection from development.

“One thing that defines your area is you have a lot of open green space compared to other places like the Greater Toronto Area. Wherever possible, we want you to protect those spaces,” he stressed.

In explaining the detriment of overdeveloping green spaces, Zuzek detailed a trailer park developed on what was green space that also happened to be a high- risk area with regards to flooding and erosion.

“This was a green field,” he said, speaking of the trailer park. “This development could have been put further back form the lake.”

Going forward, Zuzek stressed the importance of avoiding development on these types of lands.

For structures that are already built and at risk of flooding, he outlined some solutions that could be provided.

“We have places that are developed and we give examples for flood proofing buildings, raising foundations, and updating septic systems,” Zuzek said. “We speak a lot about the strategy and essentially, this comes into place where we have extreme risk, for example, County Road 12. The road is essentially at the lake and we require some planning to evaluate what the options are. While you may look at keeping the road in exactly the same place, realigning roads away from hazards can sometimes be more cost effective.”

With regards to areas that contain a number of cliffs and bluffs, such as Cressy, Adolphus Reach and Picton Bay, development in those areas has already started to destabilize the vegetation that keeps the cliffs/bluffs from eroding.

“Preserve what you have wherever you have natural shorelines. Nature itself is resilient,” Zuzek reiterated.

Councillor Brad Nieman addressed presenters with a two part question concerning public access to the report and avoiding development in hazardous areas.

“Is the report available to the public?” He asked, adding, “how do we go about not having development in the flood plains such as one new house or five houses….how do we go about ensuring that we don’t do that?”

Philibert answered Nieman, confirming that any development on hazardous lands will, going forward, be considered in the context of the report.

“QC regulates development adjacent to many of these shorelines, so through our regulation, any development adjacent to the shoreline would come through our office and we would use the findings of this report and the hazard lines that have been mapped when discussing what can be permitted,” she explained. “Hopefully people who have vacant lots have sufficient room to accommodate developments they’re hoping for.”

Philibert also confirmed the report is available to the public on the QC website, which can be found here: https://www.quinteconservation.ca/en/watershed-management/bay-of-quinte-and-lake-ontario-shoreline-management-plan.aspx