As Britney Spears would say: “Oops!… I Did It Again”.
Again this year, the MNRF have not done all they could to prevent flooding Lake Muskoka. As shown by the graph below (click on it for a larger view), this spring 2017 the water level of Lake Muskoka reached 6.3″ above the Normal Operating Zone (NOZ).
The Muskoka River Water Management Plan (MRWMP) specifies the range of acceptable water levels for Lake Muskoka. This is called the Normal Operating Zone, and is between the two blue horizonal lines in the graph below. If the water level is below the NOZ, there are problems such as disruption to shoreline wildlife habitat and boat propellers hitting rocks. And if the water level is above the NOZ, there is flooding.
To prepare for the spring freshet, the MNRF draws down the water level of Lake Muskoka during the winter. As shown in the graph above, the MNRF began the winter draw-down about January 1 this year, reaching the maximum draw-down on February 22, 2017. As shown in the graph below (click on it for a larger view), the MRWMP allowed the MNRF to draw down the water level of Lake Muskoka 15.5″ more than they did this year. The end result of this inadequate draw-down is that on April 22, 2017 the water level of Lake Muskoka reached a peak of 6.3″ above the NOZ, causing flooding.
It is very disappointing that after the significant flooding last year (article from spring 2016 is here), the MNRF did about the same inadequate draw-down this year as last.
We know there are complexities such as how much snow is on the ground and its water content, and that the inches of inadequate draw-down does not directly correspond to inches of flooding. But the facts are:
- Flooding would be reduced if there was greater draw-down.
- The existing MRWMP allowed the MNRF to draw down the water level of Lake Muskoka much more than they did this past winter (and the winter before that as well).
A huge unknown factor is whether the winter draw-down could not be started sooner due to Ontario Power Generation not agreeing to open their Moon Dam sooner, more detail about this is here. If OPG is a cause of flooding Lake Muskoka, then it would be MNRF’s responsibility of representing and balancing the needs of the public to work with OPG on this issue.
We know that the MNRF cannot always prevent flooding due the constraints in the watershed, the MRWMP, and in working with OPG. But it appears that the MNRF could do more within the existing MRWMP, and could certainly be more open with the public about the draw-down constraints and decisions made.
As Britney Spears said (perhaps of the MNRF): “I’m not that innocent”.