Bracebridge MuniElection2014 update: Leonard Chilton to seek Bracebridge Ward seat

Update May 27: Leonard Chilton is running for the Bracebridge Ward in the municipal election in October. He filed his nomination papers with the town of Bracebridge yesterday. Liam Cragg announced May 15 he would not seek re-election in the ward. He will be moving to Grafton, but will be able to complete his present term.

Update May 15, 130pm: Liam Cragg, Councillor for the Bracebridge ward today will not seek re-election in October.  He withdrew his papers today. Cragg says being on Council has been one of the more rewarding things he’s done in his life and he looks forward to finishing out this term. He and his family are moving to a century farm in Grafton to begin their next life adventure so he would be unable to complete a full next term.

Bracebridge District Councillor Scott Young has also said he will not seek another term at Council. MNW wishes both Young and Cragg well in their future endeavours.

April 29: Four of present Council will run again in Bracebridge; Quemby filed papers today

Published April 29, 1.50pm:  The Town of Bracebridge has issued a release stating that Mark Quemby filed his nomination papers today in a bid to keep his seat as Monck/Muskoka Ward Councillor for the Town of Bracebridge. That brings the number of incumbents back in the running up to four of the nine present Councillors. As well, Carol Corriveau-Truchon has filed in Bracebridge to run for Trustee for the Simcoe-Muskoka Catholic School Board.

In the running in Bracebridge so far:

Bracebridge Municipal

Rain in the forecast, but Muskoka watershed levels on decline

Muskoka water levels starting to decline, says MNR

Featured picture: It’s not unusual for land on this bay on north Lake Muskoka to get wet from the spring freshet. The water peaked here early on Saturday, April 26. There was no change over the next two days, but today the water has declined a bit. Last year, during the abnormal 100 year event, the entire grassy area you see in the picture was fully flooded and the owner saw Pike spawning on his front lawn.

Published April 29, 9.23 am: Environment Canada is calling for some rain today and there’s a chance of showers throughout the week with sun again on Friday. For those worried about water levels, it looks like we might be coming through the other side of the spring freshet. A Ministry of Natural Resources official says “the Muskoka River system,  and including Lake Muskoka, is now beginning to decline. While there is some rain forecasted for today and through the week, it shouldn’t cause water levels and flows to rise once again unless a significant amount of cumulative rainfall is received.”

North of us, the MNR North Bay District yesterday issued a Flood Watch for French River. For a list of MNR messages regarding Water Conditions, including Flood notifications, please click here.


For a look at what last year looked like on April 8, please browse 2013: The Year of the Flood, a pictorial of water levels in Muskoka from last year’s flood event.


OPP reports: thefts and break ins in Bracebridge and Huntsville, update on Moon River rescue Friday

Breaks ins, thefts of snow machines and a rescue on Moon River kept police busy this past weekend

Published April 28, 6.50pm: Reports from OPP today:

Buildings broken into on William Street, Huntsville: Overnight on Friday, unknown culprits broke into the Snack Shack and the Soccer Club on William Street in Huntsville. Workers with the Town of Huntsville called police after finding graffiti and evidence of drug use in one of the buildings. A fire extinguisher had also been taken and was later found nearby after it had been set off.

Break and Enter in Huntsville home: There was also a break in reported at a house on Concession 4 and 5 west in Huntsville. The owners had left Friday and returned Sunday to find their house and garage had been broken into. Stolen items included jewellery, Canadian and American currency, a large amount of coin, and a folder containing personal information.

Alleged speeder on Highway 11 also faces drug charges:  Pulling over an alleged speeder on Highway 11 turned into a drug arrest early Sunday morning. Police from the Huntsville OPP detachment say they saw a car speeding near Rock Road. Once they pulled the car over, they discovered the driver had a suspended driver’s licence, and was also in possession of a substance believed to be heroin. Charged are the driver, 25-year-old Navpreet Sing Gill, and passenger, 30-year-old Kuldeep Sing Gill, both of Brampton.

Break and enter, snowmobile theft in Bracebridge: The Bracebridge OPP detachment is investigating a break and enter at a home on Hiram Street near McDonald Street. Police say $4,000 worth of jewelry and money was stolen from the home sometime between two and five last Thursday afternoon. They’re also searching for suspects who made off with two snowmachines and a black trailer parked on the corner of Robert Dollar Drive an Ecclestone Drive in Bracebridge. That happened overnight Thursday into Friday. The two snow machines are a black 2009 Ski-Doo and a black/white 2012 Ski-Doo.

Two survive after boat capsizes on Moon River Friday: In Bala, members of the Bracebridge OPP detachment were called to the Moon River in Bala and rescued stranded boaters who had their boat overflow with water due to the strong current. Muskoka News Watch thanks those who called and emailed about the rescue under way on Friday (see Flood update and Moon River capsize article posted Friday, April 25).

Here is the police report on what happened on the river that afternoon.

At about two pm two males set out on the Moon River with their 12 foot aluminum boat to explore the water. The males travelled near fast moving water and were unable to handle the strong current. The boat began to take on water and the boat capsized, leaving the two males to swim to shore with the assistance of life jackets they were wearing at the time.

The OPP Bracebridge Marine Unit members were called to attend the river as the males were stranded in an isolated location on shore West of Kimberly Island (near Hurling’s Point). The OPP Marine Unit located the two males and transported them back to their residence. Luckily, the males suffered no injuries and their boat was also recovered.

With the high water levels in the area, the fast moving current, and the cold water temperatures the OPP is reminding the public to use caution when near water ways.

Plans under way for Bala’s 100th anniversary as an incorporated Town

Bala ‘officially’ turns 100 and everyone’s invited to the party!

Article by Randy Brown, Cottage Cravings

April 26: Spring has started to bloom in the Township of Muskoka Lakes and Bala’s “100 Ways, 100 Days to Celebrate Bala’s 100th Anniversary” is ramping up as well.

Bala was first settled by Thomas Burgess in 1868 and was incorporated on June 1, 1914. At the time, Bala was the smallest incorporated town in Canada. Bala businesses are rolling out the red carpet in 2014 to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Town’s incorporation.

A couple of businesses have already started the celebration.

Bala celebrating 100th birthday this year. Submitted photo.
Bala celebrating 100th birthday this year.

Cottage Cravings has been playing host to monthly dinner nights, bringing the flavours of the world to Bala. So far they have included meals inspired by Texas, Germany, Key West and England. May 6-8 brings the almost sold out Jamaican Me Crazy to Cottage Cravings with one more set of dinners planned in early June.

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh and Muskoka Lakes Winery have held several events over the winter and spring as well. They continue to hold daily tours and wine tastings. Bala Bay Inn is opening for their regular season and besides playing host to several weddings, offer weekly ghost tours in the summer as well as live entertainment.

The Kee to Bala will once again be bring world class entertainment and concerts to Bala starting in May. The Kee also hosts weekly resort nights. New this year is The Kee 5k, a running and walking event on July 5th followed by a live concert. [MNW notes: The Kee, along with other local businesses, such as the Bala Falls Pub, has also gained Township of Muskoka Council approval to close Bala Falls Road for a one-day ticketed event connected to the possible return of Wakestock to Bala. Stay tuned for more info on Wakestock’s potential return. Bush’s Sports Centre has applied to be the venue for the event.)

The Actors’ Colony Theatre will be marking the 80th anniversary of professional summer theatre in Canada with events starting in June and theatre performances throughout July and August. They have paired together with the Moon River Lookout and Bala Bay Inn for dinner and theatre packages.

The Muskoka Lakes 12th Annual Spring Art Tour will be celebrated June 7 and 8 with the Bala Bay Inn playing host to 4 of the tours many artists. The Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour has a stop a Christine Marshall’s Gallery September 27 & 28 and October 4 & 5.

The Bala Arena will play host to Summer and Fall Antique Shows while the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce hosts simultaneous Craft Shows at the Bala Community Centre. The Arena will also have summer programs until hockey and ringette resume in the fall for another exciting season.

Bala Museum with Memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery will be welcoming guests as well as participating in the Opens Doors Event.

Keep an eye on the Muskoka News Watch Events page for Bala Centennial events.

Theatre company in Bala honours past with name from the past

What’s in a Name? 80 Years of Theatrical History!

Published April 28, 5pm: The theatre company in Bala known as the New Actors’ Colony Theatre has dropped the ‘new’ from its name.

Featured picture: Mike Petersen and Peter Shipston in Greater Tuna at Actors’ Colony Theatre 2013 Season. Photo by Jack Hutton submitted by Actors’ Colony Theatre.

“What better way to pay tribute to the first professional theatre in Canada” reflects Artistic Director, Eva Moore, “than to adopt its name?” On April 1, 2014, we dropped the ‘New’ from our name and will henceforth be known as Actors’ Colony Theatre.” The original Actors’ Colony Theatre, founded in Bala in the spring of 1934 by actor/director John Holden, was the first professional theatre company in Canada. Moore believes that’s worth commemorating.

“We’re very proud that it started here in Bala,” says Moore. “We’re thrilled to have been given the programs, scrapbooks and photographs from the original company, and we’ve proudly hung their welcome sign in our performance space each season.

It reads: Through these doors pass the most important people in the world ~ our patrons. It’s in its original frame, discolored and kind of ratty, but it’s 80 years old, for heaven’s sake…we should all look so good at that age!”

Another exciting offering for 2014 is a traditional summer stock season. That means running one play at a time, for 10 to 12 performances, then closing and opening the next one; a departure from the repertory seasons of the past three years. “Plans are well advanced and casting is finalized for the upcoming season, along with very special events in various locations around Muskoka” says Moore.

For the 80th anniversary, Actors’ Colony Theatre has partnered with Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. “We’re thrilled that Tourism and Marketing Coordinator/FedNor intern, Jennifer Clute is assigned to promoting the theatre among her projects” says Moore. “I am very impressed with Jennifer’s energy and enthusiasm, and delighted to be working with her.”

“Really, this season is shaping up to be the best one yet,” says Moore. “We have an amazing team of professionals and volunteers working to ensure our audiences have a fantastic summer! Stay tuned…the best is yet to come!”

Also in the plans for the theatre are Sunday evening cabaret nights featuring musical ensembles such as Muskoka Melody and Just 8 Jazz.

For further information about the upcoming season, contact:

Eva Moore: 705-641-2949 |

Jennifer Clute: 705-762-5663 | tourism@muskokalakeschamber

Reward posted after precious family jewelry stolen from Bala home

Bala woman wants her mother’s wedding ring and other heirloom jewelry back; posts reward

Published April 28, 5pm: A Bala woman is offering a reward for the return of jewelry stolen from her home.

Catherine Glover says she was at work and her husband and son away snowmobiling on March 11 when someone entered their home and stole some jewelry from a crystal dish in a bathroom. The loss of one very special piece is particularly heart-breaking for Glover.

“Included in the items stolen was my mother’s wedding ring,” says Glover. Her mother has advanced Alzheimer’s disease and is in a nursing home in B.C. “Last December I brought her ring home with me because I was afraid it might get stolen from the nursing home. How sadly ironic that it gets stolen three months later from my home in Bala.”

Nothing else was taken. Glover reported the theft on the morning of March 12 when she realized her jewelry was gone as she was getting ready for work.

The loss of treasured family heirlooms – and the fact that the police investigation has not seen results — has prompted Glover to offer a reward now for the return of her belongings.

For now, anyone who could make that happen is invited to email Catherine. Email

Flood Update: North Muskoka River holding steady, south Muskoka River and into Lake Muskoka rising slowly; boat capsize on Moon River

Just because water is open doesn’t mean you should be on it; boat flipped on Moon River today; one man died last weekend on Black River and update on present water level conditions as of April 25

Updated with OPP report on Moon River Boat rescue, April 28:

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Bracebridge detachment members were called to the Moon River in Bala and rescued stranded boaters who had their boat overflow with water due to the strong current.

On April 25, 2014 at approximately 2pm two males set out on the Moon River with their 12 foot aluminum boat to explore the water. The males travelled near fast moving water and were unable to handle the strong current. The boat began to take on water and the boat capsized, leaving the two males to swim to shore with the assistance of life jackets they were wearing at the time.

The OPP Bracebridge Marine Unit members were called to attend the river as the males were stranded in an isolated location on shore West of Kimberly Island. The OPP Marine Unit located the two males and transported them back to their residence. Luckily, the males suffered no injuries and their boat was also recovered.

The spring can be a dangerous time of year. With the high water levels in the area, the fast moving current, and the cold water temperatures the OPP is reminding the public to use caution when near water ways.

Original article follows:

April 25, 6pm: The OPP report two youths flipped a boat on Moon River and were rescued by two officers from the Bracebridge detachment. There are no further details but unconfirmed reports about an hour ago said the mishap occurred on Moon River at the area known as the Chutes and that the craft involved was a 12′ aluminum boat.

Still, it serves as a wake up call. PC David Hobson of the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment says people should know about the one-ten-one rule. He says that if you fall into the water in the fall (autumn when the water could be much warmer than it is now), you have only ONE minute to get your breath. Then you have TEN minutes to get out of the water or get your arms wrapped around something to which you can stay permanently attached. If you’re lucky, you have ONE hour in which to be rescued otherwise chances are good you will die from a heart attack from the cold. Think about it, he says, and he suggests everyone visit the Cold Water Boot Camp web site to learn more. You can visit that site by clicking here.

Easter tragedy on Black River

Municipal officials are warning people to stay clear of open waters, creeks and rivers due to rising water levels and fast flowing waters. 65-year-old Phil McDonald of the Washago area died last Sunday after the canoe he and his wife were in capsized on Black River. Water levels are now down on the Black River but fast moving water, debris and extreme cold water make for a dangerous mix on all our waterways. McDonald’s wife Gail was taken to hospital in Toronto and treated for hypothermia.

Latest word on Muskoka flood conditions

Meantime, the Emergency Control Group at the Town of Bracebridge met again today and is advising water levels on the North Branch of the Muskoka River are holding steady. The South Branch, Lake Muskoka and the Muskoka River (between Wellington Street Bridge and Lake Muskoka) are rising slowly. Some residents, however, say the water seemed down a bit yesterday. Moderate rainfall and cooler temperatures have likely helped keep levels from rising faster. Below are some photos from Beaumont Drive looking across to Annie Williams Park. Here, water levels seemed to peak on April 22 and are only slightly higher as of 7pm this evening (April 25).

Muskoka River, flooding
April 24 – no additional rise since April 22 on Muskoka River near Annie Williams Park yesterday, but water reported slightly higher tonight at 6pm (April 25)

Sand bags continue to be available free of charge for Bracebridge residents and property owners from Fowler Construction at 1206 Rosewarne Drive. Fowlers will also be open on Saturday, April 26 from 8 a.m. to 5p.m. to help any residents who wish to obtain sand bags to protect their property.

When will the ice be out? Muskoka News Watch was predicting not until May but on a fly over the lakes yesterday, Muskoka Lakes Councillor Ron Brent reported large sections of open water. The melt continues and people in flood prone areas should, as always, be prepared. And boaters should think carefully about whether heading for open water is really the best idea this weekend.

Four incumbent councillors file to run in Muskoka Lakes: Furniss to tackle Murphy for Mayorship

Four Councillors filed papers today to represent Muskoka Lakes; Furniss for Mayor; Brent for District Council; Baranik and McTaggart seeking re-election as Township Councillors

Published April 23, 5.20pm: Four Muskoka Lakes Councillors filed their papers together today at 2 pm at the Township office in Port Carling.

Featured picture top left: Don Furniss running for Mayor

“It is with pleasure that I announce my candidacy for the Office of Mayor in The Township of Muskoka Lakes,” said Councillor Don Furniss. He says he and Councillors Ron Brent, Gault McTaggart and Jean-Ann Baranik share common ideas of what they believe needs to be accomplished in the Township.

Councillor Furniss is the first to formally enter the Mayoral race by filing papers today. Incumbent Mayor Alice Murphy told newspapers last year and again early this year that she intends to run but has yet to file officially. Ward C Councillor Ron Brent will be seeking the District Council seat for Ward C (a position held presently by Phil Harding) while Ward C Councillor Jean-Ann Baranik and Ward B Councillor Gault McTaggart are GroupShotApril2014v1both seeking a second term to represent their constituents.

Some key opportunities the four have identified for the next Council term include the following (paraphrased from the platform outlined by the Councillors today):

  • Restoring stability to Municipal Operations at all levels and in all Departments so that people can do their jobs without interference.
  • Substantial improvement of Township Council’s Governance Standards; including an updated Council Code of Conduct with Third Party Oversight & violation consequences.
  • Maintaining and improving our treasured waters and environment, while at the same time working collaboratively with businesses, and property owners to enable dreams to become realities (while respecting water, environment and the Strategic Plan).

The Councillors say the Bala Falls small hydro project will not be the all consuming raison d’etre for the new Council and Mayor. Their platform statement reads: “This is a Provincial site and Provincially regulated project. The new council will work with the proponent to maximize the benefits to the TML and minimize the impact on the good people of Bala.”

Other points in their platform described today:

  • Develop a manageable plan to address the Township’s current infrastructure deficit.
  • Improve the use of current arenas, libraries, parks, trails and community centres.
  • Revamp web site and communications with our ratepayers
  • Substantially improve our use of Risk Management tools in all Township activities.
  • Continue with the identification and preservation of genuine heritage sites.

Until today, only Ward B District Councillor Allen Edwards had officially filed to run again in the municipal election on October 27, 2014.

Don Furniss running for Mayor

Furniss says he has “made positive contributions as the current Chair of Finance and the Budget Committee”, including introducing the concept of Risk Management to all Departments, protecting property rights, pushing for the update of our 25-year-old Comprehensive Zoning By Law, and by supporting improvements for the volunteer fire department.

“I believe, my experience on Council, plus the skills developed serving on the boards of several companies, managing large companies, controlling multi million dollar capital projects and building consensus with diverse and multicultural interest groups, should provide our Township with strong leadership over the next 4 years,” says Furniss.

He and his wife Carol are from Milford Bay and have lived in both Muskoka and Toronto. Carol’s family has continuously lived and owned property on Tondern Island, Lake Muskoka, for over 140 years. After more than 30 years in sales and senior management positions, Furniss moved to Muskoka in 2004, where he has sold real estate for seven years, and served the Township as a Ward B Councillor over the past municipal term.






Breaking News: CAO calls it quits at Township of Muskoka Lakes

Exclusive: CAO gives notice at Township of Muskoka Lakes, Wawa welcomes him back (Updated 12.30 with official release from Township accepting Wray’s resignation)

Published April 23, Noon: Chief Administrative Officer Chris Wray is calling it a day at Township of Muskoka Lakes.

Muskoka News Watch has learned that in a statement to be released today, the Township is expected to announce Wray has given notice.

His departure is not news for Wawa.

Last night the council of Wawa says they are welcoming Wray back. Read Council Rehires Chris Wray as CAO.

According to a report in Wawa News, Wawa Mayor Linda Nowicki stated “after an extensive search process, we have hired Mr. Chris Wray. Many of you will be familiar with Mr. Wray; he was our CAO from 1999 to 2012. He left to become CAO of Muskoka Lakes. We are entertaining the agreement tonight to bring him back to the Municipality with all his experience.” The report states Councillor Yvan Besner added: “it’s good to see him come back. Anybody who believes that the grass is greener on the other side, and makes that attempt, and finds out that it is not so, and wishes to come back, so he’s left with a good record and I am ready to endorse his return to our Municipality.” Council passed the motion to bring Wray back.

Sources in Muskoka Lakes say he has given four weeks notice to the Township which could make his last day May 23.

On Thursday, Township Council held two closed sessions after the end of the portion of Council that is open to public. Between those two closed sessions, a motion was read to go back into closed to discuss a personnel matter pursuant to an identifiable individual.

Featured picture top left: Chris Wray shortly after joining the Township as CAO.

Media release from Township of Muskoka Lakes, received 12.20pm: The Township of Muskoka Lakes has received and accepted the resignation of CAO, Chris Wray. On behalf of council, staff and the community, Mayor Murphy thanks Mr. Wray for his valuable service and contribution to the community and extends best wishes to him as he moves on to future endeavours. A search process will be initiated by Council to fill this position and ensure an effective transition of responsibilities.

Related articles:

July 28, 2012; Bracebridge Examiner, Turnover troubles at Muskoka Lakes

October 24, MNW, October 2012, New CAO coming to Township


Bracebridge gets federal money for accessibility renovations at town hall

Town of Bracebridge building renovations to meet accessibility standards: feds kick in over $40K to help

Published April 22: 11:50am: The Town of Bracebridge’s Municipal Office is getting some funding help for accessibility renovations from the federal government.

Picture shows Tony Clement and Graydon Smith making announcement this morning. Submitted photo.

Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement today announced the Town will receive $43,011 for the renovation work. Clement made the announcement on behalf of the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada.

“I am pleased our Government is able to support making our municipal offices more open and accessible,” said Clement. “Our goal should be to make government services as readily available to everyone as we can, and these improvements being announced today in Bracebridge are in line with that goal.”

Smith and Clement
Over $40K to help Town of Bracebridge renovate to meet accessibility standards

The Town’s project will include upgrading of public and staff washroom facilities to meet with current accessibility standards and code requirements. The main entrance, doorways, drinking fountain and service-area counters will also be upgraded for improved accessibility.

The proposed project was identified by members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee and municipal staff through the Town’s annual accessibility planning process.

“People with disabilities will benefit from this project through greater ability to participate in municipal business or access the office to conduct business,” said Mayor Graydon Smith. “The alterations will also demonstrate that the Town takes accessibility seriously, for both staff and visitors.”

The renovation work is being funded through the Small Project Component of the Government of Canada’s Enabling Accessibility Fund, which supports capital costs of construction and renovations related to improving physical accessibility and safety for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces.

Bala United Church asks Township to accept alternative hydro build plan

Ensure Margaret Burgess Park is left alone, asks Church, if hydro plant build goes ahead: MRPOA president says there’s no guarantee it will be untouched

Published April 21, 10pm: The Bala United Church, which neighbours Margaret Burgess Park in Bala, asked the Township of Muskoka Lakes Thursday to consider alternatives  should a hydro plant build at North Bala Falls go ahead.

Swift River Energy Limited (SREL)  has said it could avoid using the park if it could instead use the Precambrian Shield Parking Lot and lease township lands right beside the proposed build site. Right now its plan is to access the Crown site on the south side of the north Bala Falls from the Park on the north side using a bridge over the falls.

In his presentation Thursday on behalf of the Bala United Church, Ian Croft said as well as the letter it sent to Council (shared in the Council information package), they felt it important that the Council see more than a letter. He felt it needed to see the faces of Church members as well.

“We understand decisions and difficult and not all interests of the community can be simultaneously satisfied,” said Croft. He then went on to list the types of activities the church, other organizations and tourists use Margaret Burgess Park for, including weddings handled by the Church.

Croft also asked that the park be restored if it is used for construction, and that the Township keep Church council informed of any ongoing process as it relates to the park.

Following Croft’s delegation was Sandy Currie, president of the Moon River Property Owner’s Association (MRPOA). He requested the Township not allow SREL to use the Shield Parking Lot or the Portage Landing Parking Lot as their use could have a detrimental impact on the economy of Bala. Currie also suggested that there would be no guarantee that Swift River would not use the park should they be granted other lands to use. “There is almost a certainty that there will be damage inflicted on the park,” said Currie. He also expressed concern about the safety of water from the proposed plant’s tailrace that he explained would be directed toward the north shoreline of Moon River, and asked the Township to require the MNR and SREL to provide a mitigation plan.

Mitchell Shnier was up next, delegating for Save the Bala Falls. He said the fencing off of Margaret Burgess Park would be inevitable by SREL to ward off any potential liability. He also expressed conflicting concerns about:

  • a) dangerous large amounts of water being redirected from the south falls and pushed through the north falls; and
  • b) about too little water to maintain flows on the north falls should the plant be built.

Karen McGhee, SREL project manager, delegated next and told Council that the Park could be left untouched and offered a lump sum lease amount of $100,000 to use the Township lands and Shield parking lot for the duration of construction (Read Township hears SREL offer).

The Letter from Bala United Church is below:

April 4, 2014

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

We, the members of the Congregation of Bala United Church, urge strongly that no marshalling for a potential hydroelectric project occurs next to our Church. Our property is the closest, and therefore, the most immediately impacted by possible development of a hydroelectric plant.

Margaret Burgess Park provides both a natural setting and basis of an integral part of the life and activities at Bala United Church. This includes Vacation Bible School, annual Bazaar, inter church activities, and social functions including Church sponsored weddings. There are also, of course, weddings and other activities supported by other Churches, individuals, and organizations.

The use of Margaret Burgess Park is pivotal to the activities of Bala United Church and of the broader community of Bala including the hundreds of tourists and cottagers who visit the town.

Our first wish remains, that Township Council accepts Swift River’s alternative staging plan, marked in blue on the project update, and so leave the park alone.

That would meet the needs of the Church and of the broader Community and provide a great area from which to watch the progress of the project if it goes forward..

We ask as well, simply, that you talk to us, that you keep us informed along the way.

Respectfully, Ian Croft, Chair of Trustees & Brian McDonald, Chair, Bala United Church Council

Alternative Construction Map referred to in Bala United Church letter

In the Map: Orange is Margaret Burgess Park, Green is Crown Land-Hydro Plant Site. Blue land beside green is Township land and Blue across highway is the Shield Parking Lot. SREL proposes to use the BLUE lands instead of the ORANGE (the Park).

Orange is Margaret Burgess Park, Green is Crown Land-Hydro Plant Site. Blue land beside green is Township land and Blue across highway is the Shield Parking Lot. SREL proposes using the blue areas instead of the orange (the Park).


Muskoka Lakes Township hears Swift River alternate construction offer

SREL offers $100K to use Township lands other than park owned by Crown

Published April 21, 10pm: Bala United Church wants it. According to a survey, 79% of respondents want it. The president of the Moon River Property Owner’s Association doesn’t want it. But will the Township of Muskoka Lakes bite?

The ‘it’ is an alternative construction plan that would potentially protect public use of Margaret Burgess Park during the construction of the controversial hydro plant at north Bala Falls. It would also generate revenue for the Township.

On Thursday, Swift River Energy Limited (SREL), the developer for the proposed North Bala small hydro project, spelled out alternate construction plans for the project that would leave Margaret Burgess Park, beside the Church, untouched.

Instead of using the park and building a bridge across the falls, the developer proposes to use the Township lands beside the planned hydro building site (directly on the south side of the north Bala Falls), along with the Precambrian Shield parking lot diagonally across from the site.

“I am authorized today to offer $100,000 as a lump sum payment,” SREL Project Manager Karen McGhee told Council, “in return for leasing the Township land and using the parking lot during the expected 14-18 month construction period.”

Bala United Church delegates to council, asks park to be left alone; MRPOA president asks Council to not allow the use of other lands

McGhee’s offer came after a presentation by the Bala United Church in which church trustee Ian Croft said the church membership wanted to ensure the park beside the church would not be used during construction. Moon River Property Owner’s Association President (MRPOA) Sandy Currie stated he did not want to see the Township lands or parking lot (the alternate plan) used. (For more on Croft’s presentation, as well as presentations by Currie and Mitchell Shnier, see Bala United Church asks Council to accept alternative hydro build plan).

Orange is Margaret Burgess Park, Green is Crown Land-Hydro Plant Site. Blue land beside green is Township land and Blue across highway is the Shield Parking Lot. SREL proposes using the blue areas instead of the orange (the Park).
Orange is Margaret Burgess Park, Green is Crown Land-Hydro Plant Site. Blue land beside green is Township land and Blue across highway is the Shield Parking Lot. SREL proposes using the blue areas instead of the orange (the Park).

“Essentially,” explained McGhee to Council, “we would stay out of the ‘orange’ areas and they would remain open for public use during construction.  There would be no need to remove trees in the Park, no bridge over the falls, and no crane in front of the falls and there would be reduced truck traffic through town.”

She added part of the proposal could be to re-grade and rehabilitate the Township lands used after construction. McGhee wrapped up by saying she had a problem with the flow diagrams shown by the presenters who came before her. “Those flows shown are from the spring freshet, and not from the summer season so they are misleading.” Finally she said SREL would like the opportunity to discuss and help consult on local bylaws that “we see unfairly targeting the project, such as half load and blasting [bylaws].

This is not the first time Swift River has tried to spell out alternate construction plans to the Township. SREL Vice President Frank Belerique wanted to talk mitigation plans at a Council meeting on October 18th but the Mayor told him he couldn’t talk about that. A discussion about safety ensued with McGhee answering questions she claims have been answered previously and repeatedly. All Councillors were present at that meeting.

SREL asked to talk mitigation plans with Council but meeting never happened

Ahead of that October 18 meeting, McGhee says Township and all Councillors were sent an email describing the mitigation plans and the desire to discuss a potential lease offer.  Read receipts attached to that email showed at least five Councillors did receive the email on October 15, says McGhee. She says she also met with two Councillors in person to discuss the alternate plans and one other Councillor did respond directly to the email. Yet on March 10, Councillor Phil Harding sent an email to CAO Chris Wray and Clerk Cheryl Mortimer asking. “Have we actually received a formal request that we have denied?”. He

Water crashing behind MNR public notice sign shows plant site on south side of north Bala Falls
Water crashing behind MNR public notice sign shows plant site on south side of north Bala Falls and powerful effect of spring freshet, April 21, 2013

was asking the question in response to a constituent who had requested he consider the alternative construction plans in order to “Save Burgess Park”. Harding had been in the October 18 meeting when SREL’s Belerique raised the desire for a meeting to discuss mitigation plans (as a follow up to SREL’s written request). Minutes from the meeting read:

‘Belerique reviewed the current status of the project and requested an opportunity to meet with municipal staff  to discuss options to reduce impacts to the community during the project construction.”

That request was never granted. Some Councillors have told Muskoka News Watch (MNW) and others that they can not have any discussion regarding the hydro plant because of a pending defamation lawsuit, yet that didn’t stop Council from discussing the project in a public meeting on January 21 — which focused on a design concept survey that included SREL’s mitigation plans.

Mitigation plan offered up in January survey asking for public input; survey likened to ‘blackmail’, says Councillor Nishikawa

Council included a discussion about the SREL Design Concept Survey under New and Unfinished Business in its January 21, 2014 meeting. The survey seeking public input was advertised widely in local newspapers (and also on MNW) in January to gather potential plant design preferences. In it, Swift River showed a map of the Crown lands it has been provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources to use for construction purposes. These lands include the areas in Bala known as Diver’s Point, Margaret Burgess Park, and the proposed hydro plant site. The survey asked people to say whether they would prefer other lands be used as opposed to the park for such activities as trucks driving through the park and equipment being on the site, blocking the popular park for public use during construction. During the January 21 meeting, Councillor Don Furniss said he had completed the survey himself.

Councillor Ruth Nishikawa shared what she thought about the survey. “The conversation that is happening says this [the survey] is blackmail,” said Nishikawa. “This council has not made a decision. People are asking if they are going to take the park away. They already have the lease on it. It’s misinformation again.” Mayor Alice Murphy complained that “there was no place in the survey to say you didn’t want it [the plant]” and that “in order to have option one, they want land from option two to dump all the dirt and mud so we’ll lose access and portage, and this is all to be done to protect the park.” Councillor Harding added he felt the survey was biased, saying “a decision could not be based on this survey, and Council’s responsibility is to listen to the taxpayers’ voices.” Furniss countered the survey wasn’t blackmail; rather, it was a choice.

Once the survey deadline passed and results tabulated, McGhee says the survey showed 79% of respondents would prefer the park NOT be used, and 21% chose the existing construction plan. She shared this information with council on Thursday (it has been public on SREL’s web site since early February). When asked by MNW about any comments provided with the survey, McGhee said that some who said they should go ahead and use the park expressed a lack of confidence that the Township would be willing to collaborate with the company. In fact, one comment stated: “good luck getting permission [from the Township].” Another stated they wanted the vacant Township lands protected, adds McGhee, noting there was opportunity for public input from anyone with any position on the proposed site. (You can view highlights of the Design Concept Survey by clicking here).

Entrance permit request back at District this Wednesday

Next step for Swift River is to meet with the District of Muskoka Public Works committee regarding its Entrance Permit application to access the proposed hydro plant site. The Township is represented on that committee by Councillor Harding. The legal representative for the Township is also on the agenda – an appearance four Councillors and one staff member have said was never discussed at Council, nor was any direction given for lawyer Harold Elston to appear this Wednesday. Elston has been the legal mind hired to continue to block the hydro plant so it is widely believed he will try and quash SREL’s request for a District entrance permit. SREL had been asked by District to give Township the opportunity to comment, which it did in February. According to McGhee, the item has never appeared on a Township Council agenda; and the answer she says she has received from Township Public Works is that it is ‘too premature’ to comment. An entrance permit on to District land off Muskoka Road 169 is up to District only to grant.

“Swift River eager to sit down with Council…share savings with Township”: Excerpt from October 15, 2013 letter to all Councillors

Below is a condensed version of the October 15 letter requesting a meeting with Council to discuss a mitigation proposal with Council before seeking further public input. To read the entire letter in PDF form, please see References after the letter.

Township of Muskoka Lakes, Attn: Mr. Chris Wray, CAO

Re: North Bala Falls Small Hydro Project – Request for Closed Door Meeting with Mayor and Council

Dear Chris:

This letter is in response to your emails outlining the pre-requisites for attaining a closed meeting with the Mayor and Council to discuss the North Bala Small Hydro Project. {Note that there will be no discussion regarding any pending lawsuit(s) or any topics under consideration of those lawsuits}.

As the Township is aware, Swift River is in the process of completing the construction drawings and attaining the required permits for construction. As the Township is also aware, the amount of land available for the construction of the project is somewhat limited. Our design engineers have, however, managed to devise a workable plan using the lands available that is financially viable.

That said, they have also noted that should Swift River be afforded the use of certain parcels of Township lands, the construction could be somewhat simplified.

Swift River has therefore requested to meet with the Council to discuss some options that may be available for construction that could be seen as win-win-win solutions for Swift River, the Township, and the community.

In particular, the lands we are interested in using include (see attached map):

1. The parcel of land immediately adjacent to the Project site that was transferred to the Township from the District in 2011 (PIN 48029-0638);

2. The Shield Parking Lot (PIN 48029-0634); and

3. The Township’s portion of the Portage Landing Parking Lot (PIN 48154-0628) and / or permission to use the MNR portion of this lot that is currently leased by the Township. Land parcels 2 and 3 would only be used for storage of trailers, equipment (including any equipment typically found on a construction site) and construction materials. There would be a requirement to fence the area to be used. Other than fencing, the lands would not be disturbed in any way. Any disturbances, including from fence posts, would be repaired prior to leaving the site at the end of construction. The use of these parcels of land for the Project would effectively reduce the requirements of storage in other areas in and around town such as the Crown land north of the North Dam commonly referred to as Margaret Burgess Park.

There are several options for use of land Parcel 1 that we would like to discuss at the proposed meeting. These would include site access, storage of materials, installation of tower crane, etc.

These activities would require tree removal and earthworks. It is also proposed that the Township consider working with SREL to deposit the rock from the Project excavation on this parcel of land for possible re-grading and landscaping. The use of this parcel of land for the Project would reduce the requirements of storage in other areas in and around town such as at Margaret Burgess Park. If permission was granted to re-grade Parcel 1 with rock from the excavation, it would also eliminate the requirement to install a bridge over the North Channel, install the tower crane downstream of the dam and truck materials through Margaret Burgess Park. Parcel 1 would be restored prior to leaving the site at the end of construction.

Compensation ideas are welcome. Possibilities include:

1. Lump sum lease payment for duration of construction based on number of months on site.

2. Construction work completed in lieu of cash i.e. the contractor could perform a construction task(s) for the Township as payment for the lease. This could include full re-grading and professional landscaping of Parcel 3.

3. A combination of 1 and 2.

4. Alternative proposed by Township.

With respect to the Township’s requirement to address the matters contained in CouncilResolution SC-18-28/07/11: This resolution is out of date. It was written over 2 years ago when Swift River was still pursuing Option 2 and awaiting an MOE decision on the elevation requests. Since that time there has been significant progress in the development of the Project, in particular:

· The MOE Minister denied all appeal requests for the Option 2 plan;

· The facility was moved, redesigned and re-evaluated. Ultimately Swift River issued an addendum to the original Environmental Screening Review Report (ESRR) for the Option 1 plan;

· The MOE Director denied all elevation requests made for the Option 1 plan;

· The MOE Minister denied all appeal requests for the Option 1 plan;

· The federal Canadian Environmental Assessment was cancelled by CEAA;

· The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has confirmed no permit is required;

· Swift River has undertaken further heritage studies on the area;

· The upstream booms have been moved and fencing has been erected around the dams by MNR; and

· Swift River has received Location Approval from MNR.

Swift River therefore respectfully submits that it has already fulfilled the requirements of the resolution in so far as they apply to the newly designed project with the exception of a few outstanding approvals, and a decision will need to be made on the leasing of these lands prior to us applying for these final approvals.

Swift River Energy is eager to sit down with the Township and discuss how to make theconstruction of this facility as smooth as possible. It is our firm belief that the use of these lands will significantly reduce the impacts to the community. In addition, it would make our work easier. Therefore, we are open to sharing some of the savings that could be realized with the Township.

It has been a long 8 years and we are nearing the end of this Project. Now is the time to start working together on the finer details to ensure we “get it right” for everyone involved.

We await your written confirmation of a closed door meeting with the Mayor and Council on October 18th. Please let us know before noon on the 17th so we can make the appropriate arrangements.

Karen McGhee, North Bala Small Hydro Project Manager

cc: Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor and Council

References and Related Articles:

MNW April 21, Bala United Church asks Township to accept alternative hydro plant build

October 15, 2013 Letter requesting meeting from SREL to Township: 2013-10-15 Request for closed meeting with TML

April 8, 2013 Letter from SREL to Township re ongoing issues: SREL_Letter_to_Township_re_ongoing_issues

Bracebridge Examiner, January 22, 2014: Swift River Survey Irks Muskoka Lakes Mayor

Moose FM, January 13, 2014: Swift River launches stage one of design survey

Moose FM, April 9, 2014: Court of Appeal will hear Township portage argument

MNW, April 9, 2014: Legal leap forward: Township wins right to appeal

MNW, August 20, 2013: Exclusive: Superior Court says public safety trumps other parts of Public Lands Act

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Last spring coffee house at Muskoka Place Gallery and art to warm a mother's heart

A blues, jazz and folk ‘conundrum’ April 26 in Port Carling and Walking in My Mother’s Shoes is back starting May 10

Published April 21, 7 pm: Muskoka guitarists Beverlie Robertson and Po Cholly will be picking their strings at a coffee house concert this weekend as part of “Conundrum” – a musical trio which includes renowned guitarist Mose Scarlett. Hosted by the Muskoka Place Gallery on Saturday, April 26, the concert will be the fourth and last coffee house concert of the spring season.

“Over a half century’s worth of musical talent will be strumming in sync through the strings of these three talented artists,” says Gayle Dempsey, Muskoka Chautauqua’s director of development. “Like the melding of three musical genres in this performance, our coffee house concerts continue to bring together residents and cottagers across the Muskoka region with good laughs and hearty tunes.”

Conundrum has traditionally been the band whose performances wrap up the spring coffee house concert season. The coffee house concerts will resume later this fall, and are organized by Muskoka Chautauqua and Brandy Creek Music and Publications.

Having performed at numerous festivals across North America, Robertson is an accomplished singer, folklorist and author whose performances have been featured on CBC, CTV and the BBC. Deeply involved in the local arts and culture scene, Robertson is a founding member of Muskoka Chautauqua’s Kaleidoscope Arts in Education programs for children, and previously served on the board of the Muskoka Lakes Music Festival.

With 40 years worth of worldly travels and concert performances under his belt, Po Cholly brings a passion for blues music that has transcended numerous borders and different musical genres. Flamenco dancers, reggae players and tango bands are just a few of the performers that Cholly’s talent and blues music has blended seamlessly with.

Inspired by jazz, blues, ragtime and swing, Scarlett has also performed in venues worldwide, and is a past Juno Award nominee. He has garnered significant notoriety amongst Canadian music journalists through his development of an original finger-picking technique known as “stride guitar.”

Conundrum’s concert starts at 8 p.m., and admission is $10 at the door. Refreshments are available by donation. For more information, please call 705-765-0340.

Welcome back Walking in My Mother’s Shoes

MothersShoesPaint, prose and paperbacks are just a few of the creative ways through which Muskoka will be saying thanks to mom this Mother’s Day.

Over a dozen area artists will be putting their creative gifts on display on Saturday, May 10, as part of the eighth annual Walking in My Mother’s Shoes event. Hosted by Muskoka Chautauqua, the gala is a celebration of mothers and motherhood through the arts, and is being held at the JW Marriott The Rosseau Resort and Spa in Minett between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

“Whether a ‘thank you’ to mom is expressed through poetry, visual arts or the performing arts, this is a chance for artists to express that gratitude in their own uniquely creative ways,” says Dempsey, who is Muskoka Chautauqua’s director of development. “For those who attend, the event is a chance for everyone to celebrate their own mothers, as well as the lives of all mothers across Muskoka and around the world. It’s not really just for artists, we are all creative beings.”

The event itself is the brainchild of Krysia Bower, a local artist. Bower, who will be speaking and performing at this year’s event, said the concept behind Walking in my Mother’s Shoes comes from an intimate part of her past.

“This is dear to my heart, and always harkens back to my own mother, and the travails that she went through coming to Canada as an immigrant to start a new life in the utter back woods of New Brunswick 67 years ago,” she says.

In prior years, the event has drawn large numbers of visitors from across the region, hailing from all age groups and from all walks of life.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers, in support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, will be at the event selling handmade jewelry and wares in support of families in Africa affected by HIV/AIDS. Walking in my Mother’s Shoes is being made possible through a partnership between Muskoka Chautauqua and the JW Marriott The Rosseau Resort and Spa.

Port Sydney grocery store and LCBO broken into

Someone broke into the Fresh Mart Grocery Store/LCBO in Port Sydney on the weekend.

Members of the Huntsville OPP were told about the break in just after noon on Sunday at the store on South Mary Lake Road. Police say ‘unknown culprits’ got in through the back of the building overnight and may have stolen some liquor.

The investigation continues and police are asking if anyone saw anything suspicious around the store late on Saturday, April 19 to contact Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.

A new beer deal brewed: Lake of Bays brewery partners with CFL Alumni Association

Football-themed beers on the way from Lake of Bays Brewery; CFL Alumni partnership announced Saturday in Baysville

Posted April 15, 1pm: It was a veritable who’s who for football nostalgia buffs in Baysville Saturday, as Leo Ezerins of the CFL Alumni Association and Darren Smith of Lake of Bays Brewing Co. proudly announced plans to develop a series of collaboratively-produced football-themed beers.

“We are excited to have entered into a partnership with a craft brewery in general and with Lake of Bays in particular,” said Ezerins, executive director of the CFL Alumni Association. “This is going to be an exciting and fun experience for us, and for beer-loving football fans. I am also proud to tell you that a portion of proceeds from the sale of these beers will go to benefit the CFLAA Player Support Fund which assists former players and their families.”

From puck to pigskin: Lake of Bays Brewing Company also produces beer for NHL Alumni Association
“In just four years we have made a name for ourselves as brewers of great, all-natural Ontario craft beer,” said LB president Darren Smith. “We have been very successful at making and marketing endorsed sports-related beers. The CFL Alumni Association wanted to talk, and here we are, ready to kick-off a new line-up. ”

The partnership was announced at a meet-and-greet held at the brewery on Saturday April 12. About 50 local residents came out to meet some of their football heroes and toast the deal.

CFL Alumni beer from Lake of Bays
CFL Alumni celebrate new beer partnership with Lake of Bays Brewery in Baysville Saturday

Pictured above from left to right: Leo Ezerins (CFLAA, Winnipeg), Darren Smith (President, Lake of Bays) Perry Lefko (Sports journalist and author who introduced the partners), Bill Symons (Hall of Fame, Toronto), Paul Markle (Toronto, Winnipeg), Randy Ambrosie (Edmonton, Toronto), Tom Reimer (Calgary), Dan Unkerskov (Head Brewer, Lake of Bays) Peter Martin (Toronto), Dave Cranmer (Toronto), Angelo Mosca (Hall of Fame, Hamilton), Dave Raimey (Hall of Fame, Winnipeg, Toronto), Rene Riopelle (Toronto), Tony Gabriel (Hall of Fame, Hamilton, Ottawa), Scott Harkness (Chief Strategic Officer, Lake of Bays.) Photo by

See more pictures from Saturday’s announcement posted on Flickr by clicking here

Press release from Tamsen Tillson of Lake of Bays Brewing Co.

Flood Update as of April 22, 6 pm

Update on Flood Warning, Tuesday, April 22, 6 pm

Residents within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area are advised that some additional or prolonged flooding will occur within known flood-prone areas of many rivers and lakes. Recent warm air temperatures and rainfall has now accelerated the melting rate of the remaining snow pack with an increased runoff into local waterbodies.

High water levels or flooding will occur over the next 24-48 hours within Lake Muskoka and the Moon River as part of the lower Muskoka River sub-watershed.

The current weather forecast through to Saturday April 26th is for daytime temperatures in the range of 5-10 degrees Celsius with near freezing nighttime temperatures. Today’s forecast is calling for a range of 3-30mm of rainfall Friday through Saturday.

Description of Current Conditions

A significant amount of the remaining snowpack has melted in recent days due to warm air temperature and rainfall, increasing the runoff into local river systems. A significant amount of snow still remains within local watersheds at higher elevation areas including the western slopes of Algonquin Park; the headwaters of some local river systems. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will continue to melt the remaining snow pack with continued runoff into local river systems and lakes.

Expiry Date: This message fron the MNR will expire Friday April 25, 2014; 5:00 pm

Update on Flood Warning Friday, April 18, 5.30pm:

From Town of Bracebridge: Be advised that water levels on the North and South Branches of the Muskoka River and Lake Muskoka are expected to continue to rise slowly over the next few days. Black River water levels peaked Wednesday night and continue to fall. For those concerned about flooding on their properties: Sand Bags will be available at Fowler Contruction, 1206 Rosewarne Drive, on Saturday, April 19 from 8am. to 5pm.

From the MNR: A Flood Warning remains in effect for local watersheds in Parry Sound-Muskoka.

Residents within the area continue to be advised that flooding continues within some low-lying, flood-prone areas. The rise in flows and levels within most rivers and lakes continue to slow or stabilize, but new or additional flooding may occur in low-lying locations before levels peak or begin to decline at a steady rate.

People are advised to keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around rivers and lakes as high water levels continue into next week. There is the potential for water levels higher than currently being experienced, depending on weather conditions and rainfall amounts over the next few days.

Residents may wish to take action to protect property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas.

MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions. Further updates to this Flood Warning will be issued as appropriate.

Description of Weather System

The current weather forecast through to early next week is for daytime temperatures in the range of 9-15 degrees Celsius with above-freezing nighttime temperatures. Today’s forecast is calling for 10-15mm of rain with additional rainfall accumulation of 7-14mm Sunday through Tuesday.

Description of Current Conditions

The water content within the existing snowpack throughout local watersheds continues to be significantly greater than the normal or historical average for mid- April. Typically little if any of the winter snowpack remains at this time of the year. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will continue to melt the remaining snow pack with runoff into local river systems and lakes. The potential exists for runoff to significantly increase due to warmer air temperatures and any significant amounts of rainfall.

Expiry Date: This message will expire Tuesday April 22, 2014; 5:00 pm

Update Monday, April 14, 1.15pm: Township of Muskoka Lakes joins Bracebridge in offering sand bags for those in need

If you’re in an area where water levels may have an impact on homes or other buildings, Township of Muskoka Lakes residents can pick up sand bags, free of charge, at the Glen Orchard Public Works Yard. The yard is at 3951 Muskoka Road 169. Coming from Port Carling, the Yard is on the right side of the highway (on left if coming from Bala). Enter the gate and you’ll find sandbags at the left of the yard building. For more info, call the Township Public Works Department at 705-765-3156. On Sunday, the Town of Bracebridge also made sandbags available for residents in flood prone areas.

A Flood Warning for flood prone areas of Parry Sound-Muskoka was issued by the MNR on Saturday, April 12 (see articles below).

Residents of Huntsville are also on alert and sandbags are available: Read update from Huntsville Forester by clicking here.

Update Sunday, April 13, 1pm: Town of Bracebridge prepares for flooding, offers sandbags to those in potentially affected areas

The Town of Bracebridge has activated its Emergency Plan as a precaution based on the

Vlunteers filling sand bags Muskoka Flood
Sand bags if you need them: Photo of volunteers helping last year to fill bags at Fowler Construction in Bracebridge

Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) Flood Warning for the area. The MNR reports that flooding is imminent within watercourses in the municipality, including the North and South Branches of the Muskoka River and the Black River.

To help residents in protecting their property and reduce potential property damage, the Town of Bracebridge is making sand bags available free of charge from Fowler Construction located at 1206 Rosewarne Drive. Fowler is open today, Sunday, April 13, between 12pm and 5pm to provide sandbags for use at only affected Bracebridge properties.

The current weather forecast calls for potential heavy rainfall between Sunday and Monday, increasing the risk of significant flooding.

The Town’s Emergency Control Group met on Sunday and will meet again on Monday morning to assess local conditions and to review any new information provided by the MNR. The Town will be reviewing its status under the Emergency Plan based on updated information from MNR and other sources.

April 12: Flooding a threat now in flood prone areas of Muskoka and Parry Sound, says MNR

Posted April 12, 2.09pm: The Ministry of Natural Resources-Parry Sound District is advising residents within flood-prone locations that a Flood Warning is in effect as flooding is imminent.

Residents affected by flooding in past years are advised to take immediate action to secure or protect property in advance of river flows and lake levels rising to flood levels.

Muskoka flood, flood, april 2013, moon river, muskoka lakes, MLA
Shades of last year? This photo taken April 23, 2013

Those residents that have evacuated their homes in past years due to flooding may wish to make similar preparations at this time as rising water levels will hinder, limit or prevent the ability to evacuate as driveways and roads in lower-lying locations become impassible.

All residents in close proximity to local rivers are advised to keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution as river flows and levels rise.

MNR continues to monitor weather conditions and flows and water levels. Further updates to this Flood Warning will be issued as conditions change.

NOTE: For current Flood Information for anywhere in Ontario, click here.

Rain forecast for tonight raising concerns: The current forecast is calling for 45mm or more precipitation beginning the evening of Saturday April 12th through Monday April 14th. The forecast through to next Monday is for daytime high temperatures up to 16 degrees Celsius with near freezing nighttime temperatures.

Current Conditions: The water content within the existing snow pack throughout local watersheds continues to be greater than the normal or historical average for early April. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will significantly accelerate the melt of the snow pack Saturday through Monday. It is expected that the melting of the snow pack and rainfall amounts will significantly increase the amount of runoff into local rivers and lakes.

Understanding Notification Levels

WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – FLOOD OUTLOOK: gives early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions

WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – WATER SAFETY: indicates that high flows, melting ice or other factors could be dangerous for such users as boaters, anglers and swimmers but flooding is not expected.

FLOOD WATCH: potential for flooding exists within specific watercourses and municipalities

** FLOOD WARNING: flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities.

A close watch on local conditions and weather forecasts from Environment Canada is recommended. Environment Canada bulletins for Muskoka-Parry Sound can be found at

Expiry Date: This message will expire Wednesday April 16, 2014; 12:00 pm


MNW: The Year of The Flood, April 2013 Flood in Pictures. Flooding last year began on April 18.

MNR Flood Terminology: Notification Levels

WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – FLOOD OUTLOOK: gives early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions

WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – WATER SAFETY: indicates that high flows, melting ice or other factors could be dangerous for such users as boaters, anglers and swimmers but flooding is not expected.

FLOOD WATCH: potential for flooding exists within specific watercourses and municipalities

** FLOOD WARNING: flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities.

Contact Information:  705-646-5509

A close watch on local conditions and weather forecasts from Environment Canada is recommended. Environment Canada bulletins can be found at

The Surface Water Monitoring Centre public webpage can be found here:





Potential for flooding as runoff expected to rise: Flood Watch in effect for our region

Flood Watch does not mean flooding an immediate threat, but potential is there water levels rise

Posted April 11, 11:15am: The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for the Parry Sound-Muskoka District is advising area residents that a Flood Watch is now in effect. The advisory issued just now updates the notice sent out on April 9 that advised of a Flood Outlook.

Feature picture (left) by Norah Fountain: Watching the ice melt at Gull Lake Park in Gravenhurst

What’s the difference between a Flood Outlook and Flood Watch? Minor differences in water conditions terminology can mean a great deal for residents living in areas that are prone to flooding.

  • A Water Conditions Statement can be either a Water Safety or a Flood Outlook message that warns of high water along rivers and lakes. A Water Conditions Statement-Flood Outlook gives early notice of the potential for flooding.
  • A Flood Watch means potential for flooding exists within certain watercourses and municipalities.
  • A Flood Warning means flooding is imminent or occurring. This is NOT the case today, April 11, for our region. Today’s advisory is a Flood Watch, not a Warning.

Residents along rivers and lakes within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area are advised to keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around waterbodies as river flows and water levels continue to rise in the coming days.

A significant potential exists for flooding due to current conditions and forecasted rainfall. Residents may wish to take any further action necessary to secure or protect property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas. Local lakes are still ice covered which has the potential to impact shoreline infrastructure such as docks and boathouses as water levels rise and with prevailing winds.

The MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions and will issue further updates as deemed appropriate.

Current forecast calling for rain starting Saturday

The current forecast is calling for up to 45mm or more precipitation Saturday April 12th through Monday April 14th. The forecast through to next Monday is for daytime high temperatures in the range of 6-13 degrees Celsius with near freezing nighttime temperatures.

Current Conditions: The water content within the existing snow pack throughout local watersheds continues to be significantly greater than the normal or historical average for early April. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will accelerate the melt of the snow pack but flooding is not expected at this time. It is expected that the melting of the snow pack in addition to rainfall will significantly increase the amount of runoff into local waterbodies.

The rate of rise in water levels and flows is expected to increase through the weekend and into next week given current conditions.

Expiry Date: The MNR advises this latest message will expire Monday April 14, 2014 at noon.

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Health unit offering measles immunization clinics in Muskoka; update on single measles case in Innisfil

Never immunized for measles? Clinics in Gravenhurst and Huntsville this week. Scroll down for articles on the single measles case confirmed in Innisfil area

Update April 15, 12.30pm: The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is offering measles immunization clinics this week at health unit offices for those who need their vaccination. The clinics are an opportunity for those who are well, have not yet had their immunization, or need to complete the two-dose series. The dates and times in Muskoka are:

  • Wed. April 16, 4-6 p.m. in Gravenhurst, 5 Pineridge Gate, Unit 2
  • Thurs. April 17, 4-6 p.m. in Huntsville, 34 Chaffey Street

For more information about other locations and times, please visit or call Health Connection, Monday to Friday, at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.

Collingwood General and Marine Hospital corrects potential exposure dates and times April 2 and 4

Updated April 14, 4.26pm: The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital (CGMH) wishes to correct some information about potential measles exposure times provided previously in a joint release by the hospital and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit on April 11. Here is the message from the Hospital today, correcting the exact places and times of the patient’s visit.

“On April 2, 2014 the patient visited: The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital’s Central Registration and Diagnostic Imaging, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

On April 4, 2014 the patient visited: The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital’s Emergency Department waiting room, main Emergency Department and Diagnostic Imaging, between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.”

Note: The time period is important because the virus can only live on surfaces outside the body for up to two hours – and the risk to the public is considered low. The information is provided to alert those who may never have been immunized for measles and may have been in the hospital in these specific areas during these time periods only.

April 11: Simcoe-Muskoka health unit confirms one case in Alcona; believed to be related to travel out of province – update shows ill person visited hospital in Collingwood on April 2 & 4

UPDATE: April 11, 1:30pm: In a joint press release with Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has updated information on the single measles case in Alcona and where exposure may have occurred. This information updates original post of 930am today. The release states: “A single confirmed case of measles has been identified in a patient who recently visited two locations in Alcona and various outpatient departments at the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital. Anyone in these locations during these time frames may have been exposed to measles. Note: The time period is important because the virus can only live on surfaces outside the body for up to two hours. On April 1, 2014 the patient visited:

  • Sobeys, 2080 Jans Blvd. Innisfil, between 12:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Wild Wing, 1070 Innisfil Beach Road, between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

On April 2, 2014 the patient visited:

  • The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital Central Registration and Diagnostic Imaging, between 1 p.m. and  4 p.m. (Corrected by CGMH).

On April 4, 2014 the patient visited:

  • The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital’s Emergency Department waiting room, main Emergency Department and Diagnostic Imaging between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Again, those who were at the locations listed above outside of the times listed would not have been exposed, as the virus can only live on surfaces outside the body for up to two hours. As well, the health unit says the risk to the public is low, particularly for those visiting the hospital locations, anyone in these areas at these times is advised to check their immunization records to ensure that they have had two doses of the measles vaccine (MMR or MMRV). This information can be found on the yellow immunization card, or can be provided by your family physician. People who have not had two doses of the measles vaccine, and who have not had measles in the past are at risk of infection. Most people born before 1970 are assumed to be immune because of previous measles infection. Visitors or patients to these areas who have weakened immune systems (for example chemotherapy patients or those taking immune suppressing drugs) or those who are pregnant, should also follow up with their family physician to confirm their vaccination status. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is offering measles immunization clinics today, Friday April 11, 2014, to those who think they may need to be immunized, at the following health unit locations:

  • Cookstown:  2-25 King Street South, Cookstown
  • Collingwood: 280 Pretty River Parkway, Collingwood
  • Barrie: 15 Sperling Drive, Barrie

All clinics are offered between the hours of 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Please bring your yellow immunization card with you. Those who have already received two measles immunizations (MMR or MMRV) are considered fully immunized. Anyone displaying symptoms should NOT come to the immunization clinics. They should call their health care provider and tell them that they have been exposed to measles. DO NOT go to your health care provider’s office/medical clinic/hospital without letting them know you think you may have measles, so that they can take precautions to prevent spreading it to others. Measles is a contagious virus that spreads easily, particularly to those who are not immune or are vulnerable. People should watch for symptoms after possible exposure until April 25, 2014. Symptoms are cold-like and include cough and fever, sore eyes that may be sensitive to light, a red rash that lasts for up to five days and sometimes small white spots on the inside of the mouth. Health Connection, the health unit’s information line at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, has extended hours tonight, April 11, to 8 p.m. For more information on measles and measles vaccine, please see

April 11, 930am: The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is investigating a confirmed case of measles in an adult in the Innisfil area. Yesterday the unit issue a release warning that anyone who visited the following two locations in Alcona on April 1, 2014 during the times listed may have been exposed to measles:

  • Sobeys, 2080 Jans Blvd. Innisfil, April 1, between 12:30 and 3:00 p.m.
  • Wild Wing, 1070 Innisfil Beach Road, April 1 between 12:30 and 4 p.m.

The health unit states those who were at these locations outside of the times listed were not exposed, as the virus can only live on surfaces outside the body for up to two hours. Alcona is a community in Innisfil on the shores of Lake Simcoe. To date, there have been no cases of measles reported in the rest of the region the health unit is responsible for, including Muskoka. Health unit spokesman John Challis says it’s important to note that this case is believed to be have been contracted from travel outside Ontario. In fact, Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, says all of the current measles cases in Ontario are associated with travel to the Philippines, Thailand or Europe. With outbreaks of measles noted in several provinces now, it’s worth reminding everyone that measles is not just a kid’s disease, it’s very contagious and adults who catch it usually suffer more severely. Measles can start off mimicking a cold and as spreads over the air, you could infect others before you see the red rash associated with the disease. Muskoka News Watch asked our go-to- health expert, Dr. Elaine Chin, to explain to our readers how to know if you’re at risk of contracting measles. She provided this information (you can also read about it and other preventive health articles on her health blog, You’re at risk, if:

  • You’re born before 1970 AND not sure if you had measles as a child
  • You’re born before 1970, have not had measles, and have never been vaccinated against measles with a MMR  (measles, mumps rubella) vaccine
  • You are born AFTER 1970 and have not been vaccinated with MMR

You’re probably safe, if:

  • If you were born AFTER 1970 and know you’ve been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. In that case, you’re immune, meaning you won’t catch it from someone who is infectious.

What is measles? It’s a highly contagious viral infection that spreads in the air. It stars with classic cold symptoms for the first three to four days (runny nose, bad cough, watery and light sensitive eyes and fever) and then by day four, a rash typically starts from your face and down to your legs, and includes white spots in your mouth. These symptoms are to be taken very seriously and here’s why:

  • 1-2 people per 1000 can die from measles
  • 1-2 people per 1000 can get life threatening encephalitis (brain inflammation) from measles
  • You can suffer significantly if you develop pneumonia

What should you do? If you were born after 1970 and have NOT been vaccinated – GET VACCINATED.  Over the years, Dr. Chin says some people have opted out of vaccination out of flawed fears it could lead to autism. She says that fear was debunked: there is no scientific proof that might happen. In fact, the doctor who made this claim was proven to be a fraud – see CBC story on the flawed research which was retracted by the British Journal. Dr. Chin says people should be assured the vaccine is far safer than the illness: that’s why the vaccine was invented and given out publicly. She also advises, “if you think you are sick, stay home.” Even if you don’t have measles, you don’t want to chance getting others sick.” According to reports to March 31, here are where cases of measles have been turning up:

  • 320 in B.C.’s Fraser Valley East
  • 1 in central Alberta
  • 11 in Regina
  • 2 in Winnipeg
  • 4 in Hamilton (If you live in Hamilton, see this Hamilton Spectator story about places where one of the infected people frequented before realizing she was sick)
  • 4 in Ottawa

Another was then reported in a baby in Brampton, and by April 1, there were 11 confirmed cases in Ontario. About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Thank you!

Tony Clement comments on death of Jim Flaherty

Jim Flaherty’s death yesterday, less than a month after leaving politics in March, was a shock to all. Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement shares thoughts on his passing

Statement from Tony Clement issued April 11: 8:40am.

“It was with profound sadness that I learned of my friend Jim Flaherty’s death.

My friendship with Jim has spanned almost 25 years, beginning with our PC grassroots work in Ontario. In 1995, we were candidates and sat together in the Ontario Legislature. For a time, we were even rivals during the campaign to succeed Mike Harris as Premier.

But, rivalry aside, we continued as friends and colleagues in the Conservative Party of Canada. For the past eight years, I have been his seatmate in the House of Commons, through many budgets and supporting our Government in responsible fiscal management.

Jim was a dedicated and passionate Member of Parliament. His contribution to Canada, his sound economic policies, and his Irish charm will be remembered.

Lynne and I join all Canadians in offering sincere condolences to Jim’s wife Christine, and their three sons, Galen, John and Quinn, his family, his friends, and his colleagues. We all feel his loss deeply.”

The news of Flaherty’s death broke about 2pm yesterday. Afterward, Clement went on to Twitter to express his grief, saying he was “Just crushed at the loss of my colleague and friend @JimFlaherty. We spent 25 years together in public life. An Irish lion is gone.”

Flaherty died yesterday afternoon of what is believed to have been a massive heart attack. The former finance minister, who retired from politics in mid-March, was 64.

Rain expected this week; MNR issues watershed advisory

MNR issues Watershed Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook advisory.

April 9, 3pm: Today the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for Parry Sound-Muskoka issued a flood outlook advisory to ensure residents are aware of how changing weather conditions can affect regional water flows and levels.

It reads:

Residents within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area should keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around water bodies as flows and levels within rivers and streams continue to increase in the coming days. Although flooding is not expected at this time, residents may wish to consider taking action to secure or protect any property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas.

The MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions. Further updates will be issued as appropriate.


Description of Weather System

The weather forecast for the remainder of this week is for daytime high temperatures in the range of 1-13 degrees Celsius with near to below-freezing nighttime temperatures. The current forecast is calling for up to 35mm of precipitation this week through Sunday April 13th.

Description of Current Conditions

The water content within the existing snow pack throughout local watersheds is approximately 60% above normal or historical average for early April. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will continue to melt the substantial snow pack but flooding is not expected at this time. It is expected that the intact snow pack will retain much of the forecasted rainfall which will minimize the amount of snow melt and runoff into local waterbodies.

Seasonal daytime/nighttime air temperatures for the remainder of this week will allow the snow pack to continue melting at a moderate rate therefore reducing the potential or likelihood for significant flooding within local rivers and lakes. The rate of rise in water levels and flows is expected to increase by this weekend and into next week given current conditions.

Expiry Date: This message will expire Monday April 14, 2014; 5:00 pm

Legal leap forward for Township of Muskoka Lakes: wins leave to appeal; updated with SREL response

Updated April 9, 2.55pm: Reaction  from Swift River, court gives rough timelines on when an appeal could be heard

Updated 12.55pm: Swift River Energy Ltd (SREL) says it was disappointed to hear the Ontario Court of Appeal has decided the Township of Muskoka Lake’s argument to protect access to land at North Bala Falls can be heard again in court.

Today, the project manager for Swift River, Karen McGhee, issued this statement:

“Sadly for area residents, the appeal of that decision represents yet another opportunity for council to use taxpayer money and resources on what appears to have become the mayor and council’s pet project – fighting the North Bala Small Hydro Project.

That said, we are still moving forward with the Project. SREL has requested to delegate to Township council this month to propose alternative construction staging options that could allow Margaret Burgess Park to remain fully open to the public during the construction period.  A recent poll conducted this past January indicated that 79% of respondents preferred us using Township’s lands as opposed to the park’s Crown lands.”

Muskoka News Watch has also asked all Township Councillors for their reaction to the news that they have been granted leave to appeal the Divisional Court decision of last August.

How long could an appeal take?

A clerk with the Ontario Court of Appeal says the decision to grant leave to appeal to the Township of Muskoka Lakes was made by Justices Feldman, Rouleau, and Hourigan, and that “99 per cent of the time, the written decision simply states whether leave is granted or refused: rarely is a reason given.” The clerk says depending on when the Township files its intent to move forward, and whether counsel for the Township brings a motion to expedite the appeal, the appeal could happen as early as within the next three months or, even more likely, “anywhere from five to eight months” from the Township’s filed motion to appeal.

Original Post:

Breaking News: Leave to appeal lower court decision granted by the Ontario Court of Appeal: Township can now move forward in bid to protect public lands including proposed hydro site at north Bala Falls

Posted April 9: 11.30am: The Township of Muskoka Lakes has announced that it has been successful in getting the opportunity to appeal an earlier court decision regarding crown land at North Bala Falls. In a release today, the Township states “in a decision dated April 7, 2014, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted the Township’s motion for leave to appeal a decision of the Divisional Court of Ontario.”

The Divisional Court had refused the Township’s application for judicial review, which sought recognition and protection of the public’s right to portage across public lands between Lake Muskoka and the Moon River and to access the Moon River for recreational purposes from those public lands. The Court of Appeal will now consider the strength of the historic rights afforded to the public to enjoy Crown lands and the use of adjacent waters, under Ontario’s Public Lands Act.

The Township says it expects that the appeal will be heard later this year (assuming the Township will decide to move ahead with the appeal action). Further details are not available at this time.

Muskoka News Watch learned last week that the Ontario Court of Appeal had gotten to the Township request and was in the midst of reviewing the lower court’s decision. It’s not known how long it took to reach the decision on April 7 and no details as to why the decision to grant leave was made have been released. The granted Leave to Appeal has not yet been posted by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Reaction from Swift River Energy Limited (SREL)

The project manager for Swift River says they plan to issue an official statement soon, but says the company is “disappointed that this decision will yet again cause further delays and increased costs.”


Here is the story on the decision the Township has now received the green light to have appealed.

MNW, August 20, 2013: Exclusive: Superior Court says public safety trumps other parts of Public Lands Act

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Muskoka Lakes Mayor announces expansion of Bala hydro plant to Premier

Mayor Murphy trumpets plans to province to upsize one Bala hydro plant while trying to block another; Councillors left out of the loop

Intentional attack on one developer could unintentionally hurt the other, too. Commentary by Norah Fountain. Posted Monday, April 7, 10am.

Mayor, we have a problem. Not only have you once again bypassed your full Council in making a Township water power announcement to the Premier, your actions relating to Bala’s millstream hydro plant seem to echo what you’ve criticized those ‘other’ hydro plant proponents for allegedly doing (public consultation not meeting your standards, not enough  consideration of safety or environmental impacts, and no notice before announcing potential hydro plans). Not to mention your lack of understanding of built development versus short-term construction space needs as displayed in your email, but we’ll get to that later. Or not. Those who read your email will see for themselves what I believe are gaps in your logic. So let’s get to the opening paragraph of your premature missive.

Mayor email sent to Premier April 2 made public April 5

On Saturday an email written by you was made public by the chair of the Township Heritage Committee (a private citizen). The email written by you on April 2 was sent to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, MPs Tony Clement and Lisa Raitt, and to Ontario Ombudsman André Marin. It informs them that the Township “welcomes the opportunity to contribute to green energy initiatives” and has “recently moved forward with an expansion of the Burgess 1 hydro station as well as approvals for a number of solar power installations.”

What expansion, the public might well ask?

The private operators of the plant (KRIS Renewable Energy) on Bala’s mill stream want to more than double the flow of water on the mill stream and through the plant from 4 cubic metres per second (cms) to 9.5 cms. According to four Councillors reached April 6 (a fifth would not comment on a Sunday), plus a review of minutes, a discussion of increased water flows has never occurred in Council chambers (although there is mention in a February report from the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) that a discussion might be requested in future).

In a letter from CAO Chris Wray on March 20, the Township asks some stakeholders of the Muskoka Water River Management Plan (MWRMP) to give their input on a take water request by April 15. The letter was apparently a bid to gather information before making recommendations to Council. As such, it’s fair to say Murphy’s email to the province on April 2 jumped the gun a bit. While the green minded might appreciate her zeal for wanting to show how the Township is living up to its strategic plan that states green energy is to be embraced, her reasons for sending that email are problematic.

Why? Because Murphy uses the potential expansion news announcement for one private developer while continuing to advance her personal pet project – trying to ensure another private developer fails in its green energy effort (she may not realize she may be hurting KRIS in the process as well as it appears to be trying to follow the correct amendment request method). Furthermore, the Mayor is essentially taking actions connected with the KRIS Renewable contract that she has criticized in the past about the Bala Falls small hydro project proposed by Swift River Energy Limited. They include:

1) Not enough public consultation. Those who live on the millstream and have buildings beside it say they’ve not been contacted about the potential plant expansion downstream from them. Surely they deserved a heads up before Murphy’s announcement to the Premier – and of all people, Murphy should know better as she (along with others including myself) criticized the provincial government for not giving Bala residents a similar heads up notice about plans to release the North Bala Falls for development.

2) Insufficient environmental assessment. I’m no expert — and neither is the Mayor, but diverting more than double the water past the dock in front of the Templeton house, and down the quiet millstream and out into Moon River may have some environmental impact. In years gone by, the owners before Algonquin Power broached the idea of blasting out some space under the little bridge connecting the town dock to the path up behind the LCBO to increase water flow. It didn’t fly. Of course, times have changed, and so has blasting technology, and KRIS should have the opportunity to present an environmentally safe plan if it feels it’s warranted – and if signatories to the MWRMP agree. As for that ‘other’ plant, environmental assessments have been conducted and approved by the Ministry of Environment.

3) Suggestions of influence.  One supporter of Save the Bala Falls told Muskoka News Watch that the ‘fix was in’ from the beginning for Swift River to be awarded the right to develop the North Bala Falls site, although it’s never been made clear how that alleged ‘fix’ was carried out. In the Burgess Generation plant case, KRIS Renewable includes investors who oppose the North Bala Falls small hydro project, and one of the principals donated to the Mayor’s campaign. Now, there’s NO problem with that (KRIS didn’t even exist at the time of the last election) but the optics are not the best for the Mayor. Especially as Murphy was involved in the oversight of the bid process: for example, she took part in the site inspection held for companies bidding on the project.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to the three ‘do as I say, not as I do’ examples given above. Murphy should get out of the waterpower business. Step aside, and let Township staff do their jobs, including giving a full report to Council to get a resolution supporting upsizing the water through the Burgess 1 Generating Station – if that’s what Council believes is a good move. According to Councillors who responded to messages over the weekend and this morning, the Mayor didn’t inform Council of her letter before sharing any expansion plans with others.

Councillor Don Furniss said he was unaware of the letter, adding, “Council has never had increased water flows for the Burgess Plant on the agenda. It was never discussed or approved by council.” When Councillor for Ward A (where the Burgess plant resides), Ruth Nishikawa, was asked, her response was she doesn’t conduct business on Sundays. A message was left for her asking her the question again this morning. Councillor Ron Brent stated “no one on Council, including the Mayor, should be writing to the Premier about Township of Muskoka Lakes without Council knowing about it.” Note: Councillor Kruckel is away on holidays, and understandably, was unable to respond.

At least, now all Councillors have had an opportunity to be let in on the plan made public Saturday — even if they would have preferred hearing about it first from the Mayor than from a reporter. Again.

A copy of Murphy’s email to the Premier, MPs and the Ombudsman is below.

From: Alice Murphy

Subject: Bala Falls Land Impacted is 124x Greater in Size than 2004 MNR Site Release Subject to EA Approval

Date: 2 April, 2014 6:38:43 PM EDT


Cc: Tony Clement,, Ontario Ombudsman <>

Dear Premier Wynne

The Township of Muskoka Lakes recognizes the intrinsic value of our watershed and welcomes the opportunity to contribute to renewable energy initiatives that are safe and respectful of our recreational and heritage based economy. In this regard we have recently moved forward with an expansion of the Burgess 1 hydro station as well as approvals for a number of solar power installations.

Over the past six years I have met with you on numerous occasions, outlining the community concerns relating to the proposed hydro station at Bala Falls. At each of these meetings, echoed many times through correspondence, I emphasized that the fundamental issue was that of scale–the proposed project was simply too large for the very small site released by the MNR, occupying virtually all of the land.

It is therefore deeply disturbing to read your recent correspondence to Mr. Ylanko, forwarded to my attention and attached, in which you stated that the proposed hydro station would “occupy a similar footprint as the former station”. Unfortunately this statement is materially incorrect.

To be clear, the proposed station would have a footprint over 16 times that of the former station, being only 256 square feet in size. Further, the developer is to be granted a 40 year lease for the exclusive use of all crown parkland at Bala Falls and threatens to re-purpose this parkland for heavy vehicle construction purposes if heritage-designated land, owned by the municipality, is not provided to the developer for clear cutting of all trees and acceptance of the blast waste rock. The release of this additional crown land was not raised in the original Environmental Assessment, and only mentioned in passing in the Addendum thereto, absent of any public process or mitigation efforts.

To recap, 50 years ago there was a hydro station that occupied 256 square feet on a very small lot, 0.07 hectares in size, successfully co-existing with navigational, recreational and tourism opportunities at this location. Now the proposed structure would occupy 4,448 square feet, a growth factor of 1653%. Further, with the active support of your government, there would be an additional withdrawal of .33 hectares of public land from public use, representing all of the crown waterfront land in Bala. This additional land totals 31,700 square feet, bringing the total footprint of the proposed project 124 times the size of the crown land released by the MNR in 2004 and subject to public input.

Just like the gas plants, an oversized hydro project in the heart of Bala would be the wrong structure in the wrong place. I would ask that any withdrawal of public lands from public use is through a public process, transparent to all, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Lands Act. I would further welcome the opportunity to discuss consideration of these concerns at your earliest opportunity.

Respectfully, Alice Murphy


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 Feature picture at top left: View of Moon River and Mayor’s dock from north Bala dam

Renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman and leading environmental thinkers at Muskoka Summit

Our environment is our economy, but what does that really mean? What conflicts does environmental sustainability pose and what does that mean for Muskoka? Resolving the Dichotomy strives to do that on May 8-9.

Featured pic: Robert Bateman, Loon Family – fundraising raffle for one of three signed Bateman creations

Posted April 4, 10:15am: Almost 300 people are expected to gather at the Muskoka Summit on the Environment (MSE) in Bracebridge May 8-9 to explore the assumed conflict between Environment and Economy. In Muskoka, with its economy based on tourism and recreation, the phrase, “Our environment IS our economy” is frequently used and widely understood. That is not the case in most places.

There is a widespread perception that environmental sustainability comes at the expense of economic prosperity, and that there are inevitable trade-offs between the societal benefits of a thriving economy and the economic costs of conservation and sustainability. Green equals impoverished, stagnating; the very opposite of the vibrancy that a healthy economy provides.

Leading experts converge on Bracebridge this May to deconstruct dichotomy

“We are excited to bring together six leading experts from across North America to explore the perceived dichotomy between environmental and economic health,” says Andrea Smith, Chair of the MSE Organizing Committee. “It’s not very often that the general public has access to this level of expertise. It should be a good debate,” added Smith.

The Summit Speakers include:

  • Robert Bateman:  Renowned Canadian wildlife artist, naturalist, and conservationist. (Tickets are available for the Dinner and Evening session portion only with Bateman for $40 for non Watershed members).
  • Elena Bennett:  Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources Science, McGill University. Bennett studies sustainable management of agricultural and natural ecosystems.
  • Robert Sandford:  Director of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative and an associate of the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan. He has written numerous books on water issues in Canada, including his latest book, Cold Matters – The State and Fate of Canada’s Freshwater, published in November 2012.
  • Terre Satterfield:  Director of the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. Satterfield is an anthropologist whose work focuses on culture and justice as they intersect with environment.
  • Daniel Simberloff:  Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Tennessee and one of North America’s leading ecologists. Simberloff’s recent research on invasive species has shaken up this field and made him a global authority on the biology of invasion.
  • Peter Victor: Professor of Environmental Studies at York University. Victor is an economist who has worked on environmental issues over a career spanning academia, consulting and the public service. His most recent book (2013) is The Cost of Economic Growth.

“Our six speakers approach this question from different directions: conservation, environmental science, societal tradition and culture, and economics,” Smith notes. “In doing so, they will question what we mean by “value”, ask whether a growing GDP is either a necessary or sufficient measure of a vibrant economy, tackle our willingness to keep environmental costs off balance sheets, and delve into what it means to have a quality life,” says Smith.

“At a time when the world is changing rapidly, we need to understand more clearly how environment and economy are linked,” adds Peter Sale, member of the Organizing Committee and Chair of the Muskoka Watershed Council.

Panel discussion led by CBC’s Paul Kennedy

Muskoka Summit on Environment, Environment vs Economy, resolving the dichotomyThe two-day summit will kick off with individual presentations by each participant followed by a panel discussion involving all speakers, and moderated by CBC’s Paul Kennedy, with subsequent broadcast on his award-winning program, Ideas.

“At a time when we face pressing global environmental and economic challenges, an in-depth exploration of the ways in which environment and economics might interact is both timely and important,” explains Smith, and she invites everyone to attend the Summit and help to broaden our understanding of what it really means to have both a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

Early registration could net a membership at the ROM

Register for the Summit at before April 15, 2015 for a chance to win a one-year family membership at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.


April 9,  7-9pm, Flooding and Naturalization – Shoreline Stewardship Workshop, Huntsville Public Library from Muskoka Conservancy, Flooding is a major concerns for shoreline and waterfront resident, especially after the spring 2013 floods. A healthy, naturalized shoreline can help protect you when the waters are rising. Learn from Jenn Head, Stewardship Coordinator at Muskoka Conservancy, the best ways to ensure that your shoreline is a healthy and resilient shoreline. The workshop is free, however seating is limited so pre-registration is recommended. Register by calling 705-645-7393 or emailing

April 10, 7:30pm, “The Biological Recovery of our Lakes: How are we measuring it?” presentation by Dr Martha Celis at Muskoka Campus of Nipissing University. Celis is the guest speaker of the Canadian Federation of University Women (C.F.U.W.)


The mayoral race is on in Huntsville with two in the running

Scott Aitchison and Tim Withey seeking Huntsville mayor seat

Posted April 2, 11:50pm: The Huntsville Forester is reporting Huntsville Deputy Mayor Scott Aitchison has announced plans to become Huntsville’s mayor in October. The Forester reports Aitchison made the announcement during a Rotary Club of Huntsville meeting tonight. Read Huntsville Forester article.

His announcement means there will be two contenders in the race to fill the shoes of outgoing Mayor Claude Doughty, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election on October 27, 2014. Councillor Tim Withey filed his nomination papers last week.

This will be Aitchison’s second bid for Mayor. He ran for Mayor in 2006. He became a councillor in the 2010 election but was a councillor previously from 2000 to 2006.

All candidates in the upcoming Ontario municipal elections have until September to file nomination papers. This is the first official mayoral contest in Muskoka so far.

Opinion Editorial by Norm Miller: Budget Leaks No Longer Surprise

“The 2014 Ontario Budget is Designed to Leak”: Norm Miller

Please find below an Opinion Editorial submitted by Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller to all regional media today.

Budget Leaks No Longer Surprise in Ontario

Opinion Editorial by Norm Miller posted April 2, 2104


It is budget season in Ontario again and my how the times have changed.

I can’t help but think back to the spring of 1983 when a Globe and Mail reporter obtained pre-budget figures from a trash bag outside of a Toronto printing company and published the sensitive information less than a week before the budget was due to be released. That was when my father Frank Miller was serving his term as Treasurer, as the Minister of Finance was then known, and he seriously considered resigning his post over the fact that the information became public.

Flashing forward to this Tuesday, frustrated government officials leaked a draft of what can be characterized as an election platform-style document that commits at least $5.7 Billion in new spending along with an accompanying pre-budget roll-out. The detailed plan is 11-pages long and covers 39 announcements over 27 days leading up to the planned Thursday, May 1st budget date.

What is most interesting to note about the information, perhaps, is that the roll-out amounts to planned leaks, or hints as to what the budget itself will contain.

The 2014 Ontario budget is designed to leak.

The pre-release tidbits were allegedly the work of the specially tasked and aptly named Budget Leak Team. Every year there are contentious sections of a budget and pre-releasing segments is an opportunity to put forward the more popular aspects of a spending plan instead of having the possibility of good news being buried on the day that the entire budget is tabled in the legislature.

Muskoka politics, Green Party, Parry Sound Muskoka MPP Norm Miller, Muskoka, Progressive Conservative, Ontario politics
MPP Norm Miller

Of course, thinking back to when provincial budgets were released before fiscal year end (March 31st), as was customary, seems to be a remnant of the past as well. This year’s isn’t expected out for another month.

As budget season continues to change as time goes on, we in the legislature still eagerly await a plan that will put Ontario back on track to balancing the budget, creating jobs, and returning to our position as the economic engine of Canada.

Norm Miller, MPP, Parry Sound – Muskoka

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