MP Tony Clement leads delegation to Venezuela

Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement who is also the Official Opposition’s Foreign Affairs critic, led an International Democrat Union (IDU) delegation to Caracas, Venezuela this week.

The IDU is an international alliance of centre right political parties.

The delegation was comprised of current or former parliamentarians from Canada, Bolivia, El Salvador, Germany, Norway and Sweden, including two former Presidents of their respective countries.

As the IDU’s Deputy Chairman, Clement explained the visit’s goal:

“During our visit to Caracas, the delegation was able to meet with members of Venezuela’s National Assembly including Henry Ramos Allup, the President of the National Assembly and Roberto Marrero, Secretary of the Chamber along with leaders of various parties within the United Opposition.”

The visit also gave members of the delegation an opportunity to meet directly with Venezuelan business leaders to discuss the country’s economic conditions.

“Our visit allowed the delegation to gain a better understanding of the situation in Venezuela, giving us an opportunity to exchange with elected officials, representatives of the business community and journalists who gave the group a first-hand account of the hardships faced by the citizens of Venezuela.”

The delegation, including Clement and the former Presidents of Bolivia and El Salvador, were refused access by authorities in their attempt to meet with the democratically elected Mayor of Caracas and political prisoner Antonio Ledezma. Mayor Ledezma has been under house arrest for over a year for simply criticizing the Venezuelan regime.

Following their refused access, members of the delegation were able to meet with Mayor Ledezma’s wife and daughter.

“It is sobering to hear the plight of these political prisoners. Political dissent should be a right in a country that professes to be free and democratic. I will continue to fight for his release.” said Clement.

$36 million settlement includes money for Gravenhurst Muskoka Centre victims

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice has approved a $36 million settlement that provides compensation to people who suffered harm while living at 12 former developmental services facilities, including the Muskoka Centre in Gravenhurst, between the 1960s and 1990s.  

The 12 former facilities, and the specific time periods to which the agreement applies, are:

  • Adult Occupational Centre (Edgar) – January 1, 1966 to March 31, 1999
  • Bluewater Centre (Goderich) – April 1, 1976 to December 20, 1983
  • D’Arcy Place (Cobourg) – September 1, 1963 to December 31, 1996
  • Durham Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped (Whitby) –  April 1, 1974 to September 28, 1986
  • L.S. Penrose Centre (Kingston) – April 1, 1974 to March 31, 1977
  • Midwestern Regional Centre (Palmerston) – September 1, 1963 to March 31, 1998
  • Muskoka Centre (Gravenhurst) – August 28, 1973 to June 30, 1993
  • Northwestern Regional Centre (Thunder Bay) – April 1, 1974 to March 31, 1994
  • Oxford Regional Centre (Woodstock) – April 1, 1974 to March 31, 1996 or in the “Mental Retardation Unit” – January 1, 1969 to March 31, 1974
  • Pine Ridge (Aurora) – September 1, 1963 to August 31, 1984
  • Prince Edward Heights (Picton) – January 1, 1971 to December 31, 1999
  • St. Lawrence Regional Centre (Brockville) – April 1, 1975 to June 30, 1983.

The 12 facilities closed between 1977 and 1999 in accordance with a government decision to close institutions and move adults with developmental disabilities to homes in the community with appropriate supports and services.

The settlement is the result of a class action lawsuit brought against Ontario by former residents of these facilities.

The claims administrator, Crawford Class Action Services, will inform eligible former residents about the claims process to apply for compensation.

Former residents of the 12 developmental facilities can receive a copy of their personal resident files at no charge by emailing AccessandPrivacyOffice.mcss@ontario.ca or calling 1-855-376-9886. Class members (eligible former residents) will have four months after the court’s approval of the settlement to request their files.

“I’m glad that we were able to reach a fair settlement in this matter,” says Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur. “These individuals were harmed in a place that was intended to provide them with care, and while we cannot change the past, it is my hope that this settlement will help these individuals – and their families – to heal.”


UPDATE: OPP recover missing males from Eagle Lake

Update: Today just before noon with the assistance of the OPP’s Under Water Search and Recovery Unit, (USRU) the two males were located. More details as they become available.

Prior:

The search continues for two males who went missing after their canoes capsized in Haliburton.

Just after 5pm Monday, Haliburton Highlands Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) along with the local Fire Department and EMS were notified that two canoes had capsized on Eagle Lake.

According to police, some of the occupants managed to get to shore, while two males who were not wearing PFD’s did not return. The Emergency Response Team (ERT) is still at the location assisting in the search.

Updates will be made as soon as they become available

Orillia man charged with child porn offences

The OPP’s Street Crime Unit has charged an Orillia man with possession of child pornography after investigating a breach of probation back in January.

On January 28th, the unit arrested and charged the male with the breach and after further investigation of his computer, he was subsequently charged with the other offences.

37 yr old Gary Bowman of Orillia now stands charged with Possession of Child Pornography and Accessing Child Pornography.

He was held in custody pending a bail hearing today in Barrie Criminal Court.

 

 

Update: Victim in April 9 Highway 11 crash identified

(April 25 2pm Update) The victim of a crash on Highway 11 in Gravenhurst April 9 has today been identified by police as 60-year-old Allan Gormley of Mississauga, Ontario. The investigation is still ongoing, but police say no charges are being considered at this time.

Original post from April 10, 2016:
One dead after two-car crash on Hwy 11 near Southwood Road

One person is dead after a fiery crash on Highway 11 South, just north of Southwood Road in Gravenhurst yesterday.

According to the Bracebridge OPP, two cars collided just after 5pm yesterday and both vehicles were engulfed in flames. Pictures from passersby showed great clouds of flame and smoke rising from the crash. Emergency crews attended and Highway 11 was temporarily closed in both directions in order to accommodate emergency crews and the Technical Traffic Collision Investigators (TTCI).

Five occupants from one vehicle were taken to hospital and the lone occupant of the second was confirmed dead at the scene. Identification will be released once next of kin are notified.

Highway 11 north was re-opened just before 7:30 p.m. One lane of Highway 11 south was re-opened at 10 p.m. and completely open just before 11:30 p.m.

The investigation is ongoing and details will be released as they become available.

Search for missing boater comes to tragic end in Georgian Bay

The body of 22-year-old Nicholas Milonas of Richmond Hill was found today near Hailstone Island in Georgian Bay.

According to West Parry Sound OPP, the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit found Milonas under water near where the boat he was in capsized. Two other men were able to swim to shore after they ran into trouble with the boat just after 4am. The search for the third man started shortly afterward.

Upon further investigation, it was revealed that no one in the boat was wearing a life jacket. The investigation is ongoing.

Three males charged after 60 yr old woman struck in the head in Orillia

Three males have been charged after a 60 year old woman was struck in the head in Orillia after money was demanded from her.

On Thursday at 10pm, Orillia OPP investigated an assault that happened at the intersection of Douglas Street and Mississaga Street. When officers arrived on scene the victim said she had been approached by 3 males demanding money. When she said she didn’t have any, one of the males struck her in the head before all three ran off in the direction of Mary Street.

As a result, three males have now been arrested in relation to this assault.

18 yr old Brandon Dempsey of Orillia has been charged with Robbery with Intent and two counts of Failure to Comply. He was held in custody pending a bail hearing.

Two other males, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, have also been charged with Robbery with Intent under the Criminal Code of Canada. They have also been held for a bail hearing.

Two face charges following cocaine drug bust in Orillia

A local drug investigation has resulted in the seizure of a quantity of cocaine.

On Wednesday, OPP officers arrested a male and female at a Walker Avenue residence in Orillia, who were in possession of a package containing cocaine which had been imported from a Caribbean country.

Both parties now stand charged with various drug offences.

The seizure has a potential street value of $50,000.

Carlton Gayle, 37 years old of North York, has been charged with Importation of a Schedule1 substance (cocaine), Possession of a Schedule1 substance (cocaine) for the purpose of trafficking, contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act,

Cindy Topper, 34 years old of Orillia, has been charged with Possession of a Schedule1 substance (cocaine) for the purpose of trafficking, contrary to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Both parties were held in custody a pending bail hearing in Barrie today.

 

74 year old man charged with sexual assaults at Orillia area campgrounds

A 74 year old Orillia man is facing sexual assault charges in relation to incidents dating back to between 1994 and 2013.

The Orillia Crime Unit investigated the incidents involving two victims that took place at camp grounds in the Orillia area.

Police say the victims were known to the accused.

Winston Parker, 74 years old of Orillia, has been charged with two counts of Sexual Interference with a person under 16 years of age, two counts of Invitation to Sexual Touching under 16 years of age, Sexual Assault on a person under 16 years of age and Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Assault.

Parker was held in custody pending a Bail Hearing today in Barrie Criminal Court.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Orillia OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Call Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 222-TIPS.

YWCA Muskoka recognizes Beth Ward with Maggie Ringling Award

The YWCA Muskoka Board of Directors has awarded the Maggie Ringling Award to Beth Ward in recognition of more than 25 years of service, for her vision, dedication and volunteering for the women and children of Muskoka.

Beth has contributed to the community in many ways including volunteering as a Director for the Muskoka Heritage Foundation, former co-chairperson for Muskoka Women’s Advocacy Group, on the Board of the Macauley Treehouse Day Nursery as well as in her professional roles as Director of Personnel and Administration for the District of Muskoka, Executive Director for Community Living Huntsville, Manager of National Health Promotion for Health Nexus, Senior Planner Long Term Care for Muskoka Parry Sound and most recently as Executive Director for the YWCA Muskoka. Beth continually asks the difficult questions and joins in the search of helping find solutions for the women and children of Muskoka.

“Maggie Ringling was a wonderful woman who I was privileged to call my friend. She took a sincere interest in the women, girls and their families, of Muskoka. Everyone who spoke with Maggie knew that they had been heard…that their voice mattered. Maggie’s legacy to Muskoka is enormous including safe child care, women’s shelters and the establishment of YWCA Muskoka.She was an inspiration to many and to be presented with this award established in her name is a huge honour.,” says Ward.

The Maggie Ringling Award is awarded annually by the YWCA Muskoka Board of Director’s to an individual, woman or man, or organization for breaking down barriers and advancing opportunities for greater social and/or economic equity for women and girls, and in recognition of the cumulative impact of their many years of contribution to the well-being of our Muskoka communities.

Submitted feature photo shows YWCA Muskoka Executive Director Hannah Lin, Beth Ward and YWCA Muskoka Outgoing Board of Directors Chair Pamela Steel

Muskoka Lakes Association demanding flood answers

An Emergency Task Force has been set up by the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) to call on government agencies to explain a second major spring flood in less than three years.

flood, ice damage, boathouse
Boathouse damaged by ice. Submitted photo permission of the MLA.

The MLA yesterday announced the continuing work of their emergency task force to get to some answers as to why major flooding of all three lakes in Muskoka (Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau and Lake Muskoka) as well as the Moon River, Muskoka River, Rosseau River, Huntsville, many smaller lakes and surrounding areas has happened once again. The 2013 flooding was called at the time a “100 year flood” event. That year it is conservatively estimated to have cost residents, businesses and cottagers over $50 million in un-insurable damages. In a release, the MLA stated this year’s event is even more catastrophic given floating ice carried by the high water and strong winds that caused even worse damage to homes, docks, boathouses and shoreline eco systems. Area contractors are unsure how they will be able to even come close to repairing this newest damage.

“We just don’t have enough people around to hire and train to fix this kind of serious flood damage. It was a challenge in 2013 and now given the damage this year we’ll be struggling to keep up” said Mark McMullen a Muskoka based contractor.

Local resident and MLA President Michael Hart, who organized the task force and the continued call out to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to explain both why this has happened again but also how it can be prevented, said: “None of us can afford this kind of damage to our homes, our businesses, our family cottages and the surrounding infrastructure. It simply isn’t realistic to completely re-build and re-plan all of the homes on these lakes and rivers”.

Lower spring water levels to mitigate flood damage

The MLA believes that the risk of damage to waterfront property in Muskoka is not being adequately factored into current watershed management practices and that lower Spring water levels should be implemented to protect properties in future. Hart said the MLA will pursue such changes with the Honourable Bill Mauro, MPP and the MNRF. Hart, who has fielded literally hundreds of calls and emails from angry taxpayers daily, says he and his task force will not rest till they arrive at a long term solution.

The Mayors of Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Township of Muskoka Lakes and Sequin Townships, in addition to the District of Muskoka Chair have also lent their support to the MLA and it’s thousands of members in a bid to get real answers. As long time cottager George Faught said “100 year floods are just that. Every 100 years. Not every couple of years. If we can’t get this fixed once and for all we might as well all say goodbye to this internationally renowned vacation jewel, enjoyed by generations of Canadians and shut off the lights and say good night. Because no one can afford this every few years”.

MNRF officials contacted today said they could not yet confirm whether this year’s water levels/flows reached the 1 in 100 year event threshold. They also provided this explanation of what a “100 year flood” means.

“The terms “10 year”, “50 year”, “100 year” and “500 year” floods are used to describe the estimated probability of a flood event happening in any given year. Using historic weather and hydrograph data , experts derive the estimated rate of flow or discharge of a river or creek. A 10 year flood has a 10 percent probability of occurring in any given year, a 50 year event a 2% probabaility, a 100 year event a 1% probability, and a 500 year event a .2% probability. While unlikely, it is possible to have two 100 or even 500 year floods within years or months of each other.”

Featured photo by MNW shows flooding on Lake Muskoka, April 8, 2016

Related Articles:

October 8, 2013, MNW: It WAS a 100 year event: MNR shares flood review

 

Local retirement home residents help Bracebridge hospital

image

Residents at a local retirement residence are helping out South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge.

Representing the residents of Castle Peak Retirement Residence, members of the Residents’ Executive Council have presented Colin Miller, Executive Director of the South Muskoka Hospital Foundation with a cheque for $500 for much-needed equipment at the hospital.

“We are not just a group of old people living out our days in a retirement home,” says Residents’ Council Chair Madeline Fielding. “We are active, vital members of the community and this is one way we can express our gratitude and support for our local health care services.”

Two Gravenhurst women face shoplifting charges

Two 52 year old women from Gravenhurst face shoplifting charges following a complaint from a local grocery store.

Bracebridge OPP say it happened April 19th at 1pm after store staff discovered two women stealing items. The women were confronted, took off on foot and were later located and arrested.

Police have charged both women with Theft Under $5000 and one with several counts of Failing to Comply with Probation.

They’ll face the charges in court later in May.

New name, broader focus for Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre

The Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre will soon have a new name: The Muskoka Discovery Centre. The new branding has come about as the  Muskoka Steamship & Historical Society (MSHS) launches its 2016 season with a new concept for tourism products in the Muskoka region, one that will combine tourism attractions and educational experiences in a unique fashion, with a shared theme that is focused on the importance of water as Canada’s greatest natural resource.

In a release, the MSHS states the new concept is being driven by need for an expansion of the tourism product in Muskoka and surrounding regions that is intersecting with a broader societal need for significantly more effective public education about environmental issues and aboriginal history and culture.

The existing operations of the MSHS include the iconic Muskoka steamship passenger vessels RMS Segwun and Wenonah II, and the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre (MBHC), with its traditional historic exhibits and programming focusing on the grand resorts, wooden boat building and the steamship era in Muskoka. They combine to provide pre-eminent attractions for the Town of Gravenhurst, and all of Muskoka.

Traditional Visitor Attractions combined with New Educational Experiences

Now the MSHS will start blend its own visitor attraction elements with new educational experiences.

This will involve a longer-term expansion of a number of major components that are part of the MSHS operations, which will dramatically enhance the appeal of the tourism attraction.

This new approach has already included a renaming of the MBHC to the Muskoka Discovery Centre (MDC), changing the target audience for the combined attractions to a family orientation, introducing a new marketing approach, and launching a new KidZone exhibit space in July of 2015.

“This new tourism product, which can be applied across a broad geographic area, is focused on the importance of water to our Muskoka area economies, heritage, culture and lifestyles,” said John Miller, President of the Muskoka Steamship & Historical Society.

“We need to develop aboriginal cultural experiences and environmental learning experiences in conjunction with local stakeholder organizations, as critical components within the educational programs that will be developed by the MSHS,” he said, “and we will introduce these concepts to other existing family, heritage and cultural tourism attractions across the area.”

As part of the marketing approach behind this new concept, the MSHS has unveiled a new  brand identity under the umbrella name ‘Muskoka Steamships & Discovery Centre’.

Muskoka boat and heritage
Present entrance sign to what will soon become Muskoka Discovery Centre

The new brand image includes a vibrant new logo and website as well as the addition of the fresh and innovative themes to its product offerings.

Changes mark the 150th anniversary of launching of first Muskoka steamship, Wenonah

These announcements coincide this year with the organization’s 150th anniversary of the launching of the first Muskoka steamship, Wenonah, which first set sail in 1866. This milestone event paved the way for the early settlement of Muskoka and the beginning of the lucrative tourism industry in the region.

For the 2016 summer season, the newly re-named Muskoka Discovery Centre, which is celebrating its own 10th anniversary this year, wooden boatswill introduce this new tourism product with a variety of exciting new exhibits. To mark the 150th Anniversary of the launch of the first steamship company in Muskoka, and blend the water theme with the current Muskoka heritage theme, the 2106 season will “Celebrate 150 Years of Steamboating in Muskoka”.

Among the first-time exhibits in the MDC will be the “Canadian Waterscapes” travelling exhibit from the Museum of Nature in Ottawa. The importance of water to our Muskoka Watershed will be displayed in the “Shaping Watersheds” exhibit, an augmented reality sand table developed in conjunction with the Muskoka Watershed Council. And the involvement of the aboriginal peoples in the early development of the watershed will be illustrated in the “Journey to the Weirs” exhibit developed by the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.

In addition, the interactive and animated “Kidzone” that was introduced in July of 2015 will continue to be a place for families to “Laugh, Learn, Explore and Discover”. A variety of science labs, pop-up crafts and Steam Challenges will be fun experiences for kids, while providing educational elements supporting the water, Muskoka heritage and aboriginal themes. Scavenger Hunts and shows by Scales Nature Park are just a few of the program activities that will keep families busy as they explore the Muskoka Discovery Centre.

Kidzone was extremely well received last year, with an outstanding array of hands-on and entertaining experiences for families”, noted Miller. “This year we will be enhancing Kidzone and broadening our theme to highlight the significance of water in the Muskoka region”.

There are also a number of festive events planned this year to commemorate this significant Muskoka sesquicentennial celebration. Details on these events will be continuously updated on the attraction’s website, www.realmuskoka.com.

 

 

New CT Scanner in use at Bracebridge hospital

A new CT scanner is now in use at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital (SMMH) in Bracebridge.

Following a multi-week renovation of the CT Scan Suite, the 128-slice GE Revolution scanner was installed and is being used to support patient care through diagnostic imaging.

A CT scanner is a key piece of imaging equipment in health care today. It provides detailed three-dimensional images of the body to support a variety of diagnostic investigations and diagnoses, is critical to treatment planning, and reduces the need for exploratory surgery.

Radiologist Dr. Jack McCann says the design and technological advancements used inside the 128-slice scanner are leading edge and will serve the South Muskoka community well for years to come.

“The new device captures a thinner slice thickness, which provides greater detail, accuracy and precision in the images for interpretation,” says Dr. McCann. “What is quite amazing about the new scanner is that it provides that enhanced detail without more radiation exposure to the patient. In fact, the new CT scanner reduces the radiation exposure by up to 70%. As well, the scan time is shorter which makes these exams much more comfortable for our patients when they have to hold their breath.”

Approximately 10,000 CT scans are completed annually at the SMMH Site. Fay Buck of Gravenhurst was the first patient to have a CT scan using the new scanner on April 6.

Community generosity helped pay for CT Scanner

The new CT Scanner would not have been possible without the support of the South Muskoka Hospital Foundation, which raised the funds to purchase the machine through the Get Better fundraising campaign.

“Equipment costs are funded by the community as the hospital does not typically receive funding from the province for capital equipment,” says Colin Miller, Executive Director of the Foundation. “It is because of the generosity of our community donors, like Brock and Willa Napier who made a $500,000 donation toward the new CT Scanner, that enables the Foundation to support much-needed equipment and technology.”

Submitted photo shows one of the first patients using new CT Scanner.

Complaints dismissed against Muskoka Lakes Councilors

The Integrity Commissioner for the Township of Muskoka Lakes has thrown out all complaints against Township Councilors made earlier this year by three different parties. The Commissioner, Robert Swayze, gave his report to Council on Friday after investigating complaints made against the councilors.

The report states he received 27 different complaints from Tim McDonald aimed at six of the councilors; two complaints by Glenn Zavitz against the same councilors; and two complaints against four other councilors by the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association. All three parties had their complaint fees refunded.

For details on the complaints and Swayze’s response, his full report from the agenda package is repeated below:

SUBJECT: INFORMATION REPORT RE: COMPLAINTS TO THE INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER

RECOMMENDATION: BE IT RESOLVED THAT the report to Council from the Integrity Commissioner dated April 15, 2016 be received. Submitted By: Robert Swayze, 06/04/16.

BACKGROUND:

The Province of Ontario issued a request for proposal for the construction of a small hydroelectric plant at the Bala dam in Muskoka and the proposal from Swift River Energy Limited was accepted in 2005. The reaction of the community was generally negative but some attempts over the years were made to receive local input and make changes to the plans that would benefit the community.

An environmental assessment was carried out and approval was given by the MOE with 69 requests for review to the Minister. The Minister confirmed the approval in 2013 and the Township brought an application for judicial review. The application was dismissed and the Township appealed to the Court of Appeal.

This was also denied. As early as 2010, a legal opinion from legal counsel to the Township advised that the Green Energy Act of the Province would likely prevent the municipality from stopping the project. The recommended approach was “to participate actively in the consultative process . . . and to focus on mitigative measures”.

The community has been divided and polarized by the Bala hydro project for the past 10 years. One member of Council I spoke to, used the word “destroyed”. I have received numerous complaints from two individuals and one ratepayer group, alleging that actions by members of Council have contravened the Code of Conduct, all of them relating to their political position on the Bala Falls project.

Two of the complaints are against 6 members of Council wishing to stay in the process and alleviate the impact on the community and one is against the 4 who support the various groups who wish to continue opposing the project.

My impression is that the complaints essentially ask me to take one side or the other which is not appropriate for an Integrity Commissioner. My role in this matter is to receive complaints against members of Council and to rule on whether the Township Council Members Code of Conduct (the “Code”) has been breached and no other.

COMPLAINTS

Tim McDonald

The most extensive complaints (27 in number) were received by me in two packages from Mr. Tim McDonald of Walker’s Point, Muskoka. His sworn affidavit covering the complaints was dated February 1, 2016. They allege that the Mayor and Councillors Jean-Ann Baranik, Linda Barrick-Spearn, Gault McTaggart, Terry Ledger and Allen Edwards, in various ways, have contravened the Code.

I also have a copy of his 25 complaints to the Ontario Ombudsman. He also complained to the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources concerning the threat that the project poses to a species of turtle.

I have carefully reviewed Mr. McDonald’s complaints to me and have divided them between his allegations that the Code has been contravened in respect of those sections of the Code which are general principles and those which prohibit specific conduct.

Most of the complaints refer to Section 4 of the Code which is a list of general principles and is headed “General Standards of Conduct”. Examples of the Code provisions under this heading are:

4.2 Members will conduct their dealings with each other in ways that maintain public confidence, focus on issues rather than personalities, and avoid aggressive, offensive or abusive language or conduct.

4.3 Members shall perform their official duties with integrity, accountability, ethics and transparency.

4.7 Council is responsible for and dedicated to providing good, effective and ethical government for the public in an open, accountable and transparent manner.”

He complains that on numerous occasions there was insufficient notice to the public, ratepayer input in meetings disallowed, failure to disclose information to the public and in general, favouring a developer contrary to the interests of the community.

I have confirmed with staff that every effort has been made to ensure that all legally required notices of all meetings were complied with. The receiving of deputations and the time extended to them is provided for in the procedural by-law and not under the jurisdiction of the Integrity Commissioner.

The conduct of members of Council in meetings is primarily under the jurisdiction of the Chair of the meeting, as advised by the Clerk. The Code prohibits aggressive behaviour but I must extend latitude to members of Council regarding their decorum and use of strong language when in political debate. Political debate is a healthy part of the democratic process and I must respect the Canadian right to freedom of expression. None of the meetings of Council are currently recorded or taped and the only evidence of inappropriate behaviour by Councillors in meetings is the claims of Mr. McDonald which are difficult to assess as to whether any of the statements made by Councillors crossed the line beyond fair political comment.

The decision to deal with the developer and participate in the negotiation of a lease is a political position of the 6 members of Council and as an unelected Integrity Commissioner, I cannot intervene.

I have identified three of Mr. McDonald’s complaints, which allege that the Code has been breached by specific kinds of behaviour. Firstly, a delegate to the January 26 Council meeting mentioned some confidential information concerning the prospective lease for Portage Landing. Mr. McDonald “logically” assumes that the leak came from a member of Council but he provides no further evidence beyond this assumption. Later in this report under the heading Ratepayer Group, I deal with a Facebook post on January 17 by Councillor Harding, which may have been the source of the information.

The second claim that a specific rule was breached is that several of the 6 members of Council attended a meeting with a representative of the developer at a local pub after the January 26 meeting of Council. Mr. McDonald has referred me to Section 7.1 of the Code prohibiting the acceptance of a benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of a Councillor’s official duties. Councillors meeting socially with developers is a common complaint I receive in many of my client municipalities. My answer is always that it is the responsibility of all members of Council to meet with developers for them to make informed decisions. If the meeting is social and the developer pays, that is acceptable so long as the practice is infrequent and the cost is minimal.

A third allegation of contravening a specific rule in the Code is that members of Council met privately with “corporate representatives who are trying to obtain financial benefits from Council.” I assume that this is a reference to the same meeting at the pub since there is no evidence of any other meeting.

He cites Section 5.2 which is set out below:

5.2 Members shall not, in their official capacity, attempt, directly or indirectly, to influence the decision – making process relating to the award of contracts, settlement of claims or other decisions. This includes but is not limited to direct or indirect personal contact or interaction with the parties administering or directly involved in such processes.

In my opinion, the intent of this section is to prohibit Council members from involving themselves in procurement matters delegated to staff which would be contrary to the purchasing by-law and to the Code as improper use of influence. In this case, the meeting at the pub was after the January 26 Council meeting which had finalized the terms of the lease.

I am of the opinion that I do not need to investigate Mr. McDonald’s claims any further because I am clear on all of the facts he relied on. For the above reasons, I hereby dismiss all of his complaints.

I understand the emotion involved in opposing what he regards as the desecration of a natural feature enjoyed by him. I do not consider his complaint as frivolous or vexatious and I recommend that his complaint fee be refunded.

Glenn Zavitz

I received a complaint from Mr. Glenn Zavitz of Torrance which was similar to that of Mr. McDonald. His affidavit is dated February 16, 2016 and complains about the same 6 members of Council. He begins with the function at the local pub after the Council meeting on January 26 attended by five of the six members complained about. He cites Section 7.1 of the Code which prohibits benefits connected with their official duties and Section 7.2 which extends the rule to spouses some of whom he claims also attended. This complaint is dismissed for the same reasons stated in relation to the McDonald complaint.

Mr. Zavitz then describes in detail the Special Council meeting of January 26, 2016 and the10 delegations, all in opposition to entering into a lease with the developer to facilitate the project. His complaint is that the six Councillors did not listen to the submissions and vote for not entering into the lease or at least defer the matter. This is not a complaint that an unelected Integrity Commissioner can respond to. He asks me to find that a violation of the Code occurred because a group of Councillors voted in accordance with their political position and not in accordance with the political position of the ratepayers present. In an E-mail to me, he best summarized his complaint when he said “I am very concerned by the actions of these 6, insofar as they appear to be completely close-minded to the Ward A ministrations around the Bala Falls issue.”

This complaint is also dismissed. I also do not find the complaints filed by Mr. Zavitz to be frivolous or vexatious and recommend that the complaint fee be refunded.

Ratepayer Group

A ratepayer group notified 4 members of Council that it was informally complaining about them, (as provided for in the Code) because they left a meeting of Council purposely to deny quorum. They have requested that I not disclose the name of their group in my report. The four members of Council were Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa, Donelda Kruckel, Sandy Currie and Phil Harding. The group then requested my input and I advised them that in my opinion, leaving a meeting to deny quorum is a political tactic and not an abdication of responsibility.

They then abandoned their informal complaint against the four and filed a formal complaint against two of them on other grounds.

The first formal complaint was against Councillor Currie for lack of decorum during the special council meeting when he was disrespectful to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. I dismiss this complaint for the reasons expressed in this report regarding similar complaints by Mr. McDonald. I find that his comments were part of vigorous political comment or debate which took place in the meeting.

The second formal complaint was against Councillor Harding and the first part alleged that in correspondence with the Mayor posted on Twitter, he made disparaging remarks which contravened several sections of the Code which are general principles. I find this correspondence to be political comment and I dismiss the complaint for the reasons expressed in this report.

The second part of the complaint against Councillor Harding is that he released on Facebook, confidential information regarding the lease from a closed meeting contrary to Section 8 of the Code. It appears that at the time of his post, 9:32 pm on January 17, the fact that Council was considering executing a lease with the developer was not public. However, a summary of the lease terms was made public earlier as part of disclosure in litigation with SAVETHEBALAFALLS.COM.

In any event, the summary was included 9 days later in the notice of the special council meeting on January 26th. I find that Councillor Harding did not disclose confidential information contrary to the Code and in fact he had a point to make.

The Township Solicitor in a letter dated February 1, 2016 made the statement:

“It is difficult to understand the justification for not providing a copy of the proposed lease as part of the agenda package, once all of the terms have been settled.”

I again recommend that the complaint fee be refunded as the complaints by the ratepayer group were filed in good faith.

DECISION: I repeat my impression that all complaints from both sides tried to draw me into the political issue of whether to support a negotiated lease or keep on fighting against the project. As Integrity Commissioner, none of my investigation looked into the merits of the Environmental Approval or the possibility of stopping the construction of the project. It is not my role to second guess political decisions and I do not carry out a performance appraisal of members of Council. That must be left to the electorate.

I hereby dismiss all of the complaints filed with me by the three complainants.

 

Getting Ahead poverty program wraps up in Bala

On Wednesday April 27th YWCA Muskoka and West Muskoka Food Bank will be celebrating with ‘Investigators’ (Participants) who have completed the Getting Ahead in a just gettin’ by world initiative (Getting Ahead); a collaborative between YWCA Muskoka and West Muskoka Food Bank. The group has gathered for 15 sessions over 12 weeks at the Anglican Church in Bala and has examined the impact poverty has on themselves, their families and their communities.

Muskoka Lakes Mayor Don Furniss and several representatives from the District of Muskoka have confirmed their attendance at the celebration lunch to witness their ‘community assessment’ and to chat with the investigators. It has been wonderful to personally witness Getting Ahead transforming people’s lives,” says Terry Chute, Director of West Muskoka Food Bank.

The aim of Getting Ahead is to provide a safe, agenda-free learning environment. Investigators:

  • reflect on and examine their lives
  • examine their own experience of poverty as well as explore issues in the community that impact poverty – banking; housing; jobs; transportation
  • assess their own resources
  • enjoy the power that comes from solving problems and controlling their own lives
  • make plans for their own future stories
  • offer ideas for building a prosperous community, and
  • create a support network to assist them in achieving their goals.

“Getting Ahead examines the outside influences on poverty; the role of the individual in creating their own future story and the performance and role of the community. It is astounding to see the strength and resourcefulness of individuals who struggle to make ends meet and I feel humbled to be a part of the group,” states Liz Angell, YWCA’s Getting Ahead Coordinator and Facilitator.

Getting Ahead has been made possible with support through the District of Muskoka and funded by The West Muskoka Food Bank.

Getting Ahead is offered annually in Gravenhurst; Huntsville (by YWCA Muskoka) and in Bracebridge (by Bracebridge out of the Cold). This model of delivery it is hoped will attract other organizations to offer the Getting Ahead initiative via YWCA Muskoka and the District.

For more information about Getting Ahead and other initiatives such as the annual Bridges out of Poverty workshop and Circles™ please call Liz Angell, Project Coordinator at 705-645-9827, email langell@ywcamuskoka.com or visit www.ywcamuskoka.com.

Update: Ministry of Natural Resources downgrades Flood Warning April 19

(UPDATE April 19: While water levels remain high, especially on Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau and Moon River/Bala Reach, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry today downgraded its Flood Warning to a Water Safety Statement. Photos below show how much the water level has dropped on the south branch of the Muskoka River in Bracebridge since April 2nd.

 

(April 13) In an update today, April 13, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR) states a Flood Warning remains in effect for flood prone locations within the Muskoka Watershed, including Lake of Bays, the south branch of the Muskoka River, Lakes Rosseau, Joseph and Muskoka, and the Moon River/Bala Reach.

The current weather forecast suggests snow could melt a little more quickly, increasing flows and water levels in affected waterbodies through the weekend. To read the entire Flood Warning update from today, click on this link: ParrySoundMuskoka_FloodWarning_April13’16

Muskoka Flood update from Ministry of Natural Resources for April 8

Water levels and flows in local lakes and rivers are likely to continue to keep rising slowly, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR).

Here are highlights from the MNR’s update issued today:

The Ministry is advising residents within flood-prone areas including Lake of Bays, the south branch of the Muskoka River, Lake Rosseau and Joseph, Lake Muskoka and Moon River/Bala Reach that a Flood Warning remains in effect.

A Flood Warning means flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities.

Water levels now

Lake levels have increased significantly and it’s believed water levels in Lake of Bays, Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph and Lake Muskoka are peaking and should slowly trend downward over the next two weeks.

PortSandfieldDock1pmApr8
Port Sandfield

It’s expected, however, that flood conditions may extend through the next few weeks: residents affected by flooding in the past should take necessary action to secure vulnerable property close to rivers and lakes and closely monitory developing conditions. Residents who have evacuated their homes in past years due to flooding may wish to make similar preparations at this time as rising water levels will limit the ability to evacuate as driveways and roads in lower-lying locations become impassable.

And with cooler temperatures, banks and shorelines next to water bodies are extremely slippery and unstable.

Snow Sunday through Tuesday expected

The current forecast from Environment Canada and The Weather Network are calling for more snow Sunday through Tuesday. The MNR notes the local snow pack east of Huntsville still contains over 50mm of water content. The current weather forecast suggests a slow melt, but if the forecast changes,

Muskoka flood
High water at Allport Marina, Lake Muskoka

the remaining snow pack could melt quickly, resulting in continued high water and/or flood conditions in many areas of the watershed.

Featured photo at top shows docks at Port Sandfield.

 

Update: Missing girl from Wasauksing First Nation found

(April 19 2pm) Police report they have now found, safe and sound, a missing 14-year-old girl from Wasauksing First Nation.

On Sunday Anishinabek Police Service responded to the missing person report at Lane N in the First Nation.

They say 14 yr old Savana Kimewon left her residence between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Savana is described as five foot seven inches tall, 180 pounds with short black hair which is normally worn shoulder length. She has hazel eyes with a dark complexion.

If located or observed, please notify the Anishinabek Police Service, Shawanaga detachment at 705-366-2534.

ATVs, ORVs, and UTVs now share municipal roads in Muskoka Lakes

Off road vehicle drivers now have the right to ride the municipal roadways in Muskoka Lakes. On Friday, it became legal for them to be there.

Township of Muskoka Lakes Council passed its ATV, UTV, ORV Bylaw at its regular council meeting Friday allowing the use of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), Recreational Off Road Vehicles (ORVs) and multi-purpose off highway Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) on township roads.

It’s up to the OPP to ticket any such vehicles that don’t obey the regular rules of the road. Special speed limits are also applied: the vehicles can’t be driven at a speed greater than 20 kilometers in a zone posted for 50 kilometers per hour; and can’t go faster than 50 kilometers per hour on roadways where the speed limit for regular traffic is greater than 50 kilometers per hour.

The new rules came into effect as of the passing of the bylaw on Friday and Muskoka Lakes will continue to be ATV friendly for at least a one-year trial period.

Whitby man faces charge for stunt driving on Hwy 400

A Whitby man is headed to court after being charged with stunt driving and other offences.

On Saturday a member of the West Parry Sound Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was conducting radar patrol on Highway 400 in McDougall Township. At 2:15 p.m. a north bound motor vehicle was seen travelling at a high rate of speed and as a result was stopped for Stunt Driving.

Police say a search of the vehicle also led to the seizure of cannabis marihuana.

The driver, 36 yr old Darrell Holmes, was arrested and charged with:
* Driving while disqualified – court order contrary to the Criminal Code (CC).
* Fail to comply with Probation Order contrary to the CC.
* Race a motor vehicle contrary to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA).
* Driving under suspension contrary to the HTA.
* Driving motor vehicle with open container of liquor contrary to the Liquor Licence Act (LLA).

The vehicle he was operating was eligible for a 45 day Criminal Code vehicle impoundment.
Holmes will appear before the Ontario Court of Justice in Parry Sound on May 19th to answer to his charges.

How to create a fire smart community: be safe during spring clean up

As spring yard clean-up efforts begin to take shape across Muskoka, the Gravenhurst Fire Department is offering some tips to help create a “FireSmart” community. The threat of grass, brush or even forest fires is present all around Gravenhurst and all of Muskoka. Fire officials point to low snowfalls this past winter and the increasing effects of global warming as factors which give rise to an escalating risk. The Township of Muskoka Lakes fire department has already had one grass fire to battle this spring.

“There’s no doubt that climate change is affecting us all.  With climatologists predicting a warmer and drier spring for Muskoka, residents and cottagers alike need to be mindful,” says Fire Chief Larry Brassard.  “The type of building materials that are prevalent in our community and an increasing risk of fire in our rural areas are on a collision course in what is called the ‘wildland-urban interface’ – the forested areas of Muskoka that are a mix of hardwood and coniferous trees where we build more and more.”

Severe storms and climate change adding to fire threat

The department also points to an increasing fuel load in our forests in the form of “dead-fall” that has occurred because of severe storms.  Forests are at a higher risk because of warmer, drier and windier conditions.  Warmer conditions can impact forest health, as well as allow invasive species to remain longer and reach higher latitudes.  Fire seasons can start sooner and last longer, all of which combine to impact homes in the “interface” areas of Muskoka.  “A FireSmart community is one that employs a variety of strategies that can reduce the impact of fires in areas such as ours,” says Brassard. “Prevention, mitigation and planning your family’s response are just some of the things we are urging.”

The department suggests the following actions be added into spring clean-up routines around homes and cottages in order to help prevent and mitigate the risks posed:

  • To prevent surface fires, remove pine needles, leaves, dead grass, downed logs, stumps and tree limbs for at least 30 metres around all structures – create a “defensible space”
  • Move wood piles and other easily ignitable items away from structures and from atop or under decks
  • Keep roofs and eves troughs clean of pine needles and leaves
  • Ensure the area around propane tanks is kept clear of combustible materials
  • Conifer trees like jack and red pines, balsam fir and spruce trees present the biggest threat; consider having a professional remove dead trees and keep others well pruned, eliminating low dead branches that serve as “ladder” fuels and spread fire upwards
  • Transport accumulated deadwood and leaves to the landfill, don’t burn these materials as small wind-born embers can easily spread a fire

“While snow has extended into mid-April this year, everyone needs to appreciate that overall, the forested areas in and around our communities will dry up very quickly, and if long-range weather forecasts prove correct, as a community we need to take action to reduce the threat of fires, and this starts at home,” says Brassard.

 

Local ambulance response times improving but challenges remain

Local ambulance response times are improving, but the large geographic area which needs to be covered by the District service still poses challenges when time is a factor.

According to a District report being addressed this week, local ambulance response time targets were exceeded during 2015 in six key call type areas:

1) Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SDA)
2) Resuscitation
3) Emergent
4) Urgent
5) Less Urgent
6) Non Urgent

“The location of these calls greatly impacts the response time achieved,” reads the report, penned by District Director of Emergency Services Terri Burton. “Given the rural and remote areas within Muskoka and the relatively low number of call volumes within these categories, the targets are challenging and force staff to look at ways to improve response times.”

The results, which include the set response time targets for the different call types and the percentages of time those targets were achieved and surpassed in 2015 are in this chart:

image

*For a complete definition of each call type category see below, bottom.

More from the report:

“In order to reduce response times in rural and remote locations, the District of Muskoka has Fire First Aid agreements in place with the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department, the Township of Muskoka Lakes Fire Department and the Georgian Bay Fire Department. All Fire First Responders are trained in first aid, CPR and AED use. Due to the fact that fire first aid assistance can reduce response times to patient contact in remote areas, patient outcomes may be improved. In 2015, Fire Departments arrived first on scene for 327 or 3.7% of all ambulance calls. When reviewing SCA calls, Fire Departments were the first on scene for 6 of the total 45 calls (13.0%). The Fire Departments are a valuable resource given the vast coverage area in the District of Muskoka.

“To assist in meeting response times, there are 176 Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in urban and rural locations throughout Muskoka. Muskoka EMS committed to continuing the provision of free community CPR courses to the public, providing 4 courses in 2015 and training approximately 200 people. Each participant trained is encouraged to share their training materials with three or four friends and family members. Muskoka EMS will continue to offer community CPR courses in 2016.

“Cardiac data shows that in 2015, 36% of all SCA were witnessed by a bystander and impressively, bystander CPR was performed on 56% of these calls. This rate is much higher than the provincial average of bystander CPR performed of 22% and is a great reason for Muskoka EMS to continue providing community CPR courses to the public.
Initiated in February 2013 to aid in reducing response times, Muskoka EMS has worked with Muskoka Ambulance Communications Service (ACS) to continue the Paramedic Pre-alert Process.

Call type definitions:

CTAS Level 1 – RESUSCITATION: Conditions that are threats to life or limb (or imminent risk of deterioration) requiring immediate aggressive interventions. Examples of types of Level 1 conditions include: Cardiac/Respiratory arrest, major trauma, shock states, unconscious patient(s) and severe respiratory distress.

CTAS Level 2 – EMERGENT: Conditions that are a potential threat to life, limb or function, requiring rapid medical intervention or delegated acts. Examples of Level 2 conditions include: altered mental states, head injury, severe trauma, neonates, myocardial infarction, overdose and cardiovascular accident.

CTAS Level 3 – URGENT: Conditions that could potentially progress to a serious problem requiring emergency intervention. May be associated with significant discomfort or affect ability to function at work or at activities of daily living. Examples of Level 3 conditions include: moderate trauma, asthma, gastro intestinal bleed, vaginal bleeding and pregnancy, acute psychosis and/or suicidal thoughts and acute pain.

CTAS Level 4 – LESS URGENT (Semi-Urgent): Conditions that are related to patient age, distress, or potential for deterioration or complications would benefit from intervention or reassurance within 1-2 hours). Examples of Level 4 conditions include: headache, corneal foreign body and chronic back pain.

CTAS Level 5 – NON-URGENT: Conditions that may be acute but non-urgent as well as conditions which may be part of a chronic problem with or without evidence of deterioration. The investigation or interventions for some illnesses or injuries can be delayed or even referred to other areas of the hospital or health care system. Examples of Level 5 conditions include: sore throat, upper respiratory infection, mild abdominal pain which is chronic or recurring, with normal vital signs, vomiting or diarrhea.

Six face impaired driving related charges in Bracebridge

 

Bracebridge OPP have charged six people with impaired driving related offenses in the last little while.

The charges were laid between April 8th and 13th.

On Friday, April 8th, shortly after 8:30 p.m. police responded to a motor vehicle collision in a parking lot in Gravenhurst.  As a result of their investigation into the minor collision, police say it was apparent alcohol was a factor and they arrested and charged 74 year-old Thomas Harris of Orillia with Impaired Operation of a Motor Vehicle and Over 80. He’ll appear in Bracebridge court May 17th to answer to his charges.

On Sunday, April 10th at 2:30 a.m. an OPP officer noticed the erratic driving behaviour of a motorist on Muskoka Road 118 in Bracebridge and conducted a traffic stop.  During the course of the investigation, a controlled substance was found inside the vehicle. Police have charged 43 year-old Marko Mitic of Etobicoke with Impaired Operation of a Motor Vehicle, Refusing to Provide a Breath Sample and Possession of a Controlled Substance-Schedule II.  He’ll appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on May 10th to answer to his charges.

Also charged as a result of that same traffic stop are 32 year-old Rachelle Tamman of Bracebridge and 28 year-old Ashley Langille of Bastard-South Burgess Township, each with Possession of a Controlled Substance-Schedule II.  They will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on May 10th to answer to their charges.

On Sunday April 10th at 7:00 p.m. a Bracebridge OPP officer, while conducting routine patrol on Muskoka Road 169 in Bala, was able to act on a tip and conducted a traffic stop to investigate.  As a result, 39 year-old Myles Fleming of Muskoka Lakes Township was charged with Over 80, Driving while Disqualified and Driving while Under Suspension. He will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on April 26th to answer to his charges.

On Monday April 11th at 10:30 a.m. a Bracebridge OPP officer, while conducting general patrol on Muskoka Road 117 in Bracebridge, conducted a traffic stop after noticing the unusual driving behaviour of a motorist, as the vehicle was moving excessively slow.  As a result of the investigation, police have charged 27 year-old Justin Mackinnon of Lake of Bays Township with Impaired Operation and Over 80.  He will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on May 10th to answer to his charges.

On Tuesday April 12th at 12:30 a.m., police were called to the area of Depot Drive in Bracebridge by a concerned member of the public who feared that a person was under the influence of alcohol and was going to drive his vehicle.  The caller was very helpful by providing a description of the vehicle and eventually, the direction of travel.  Police were able to locate the vehicle on Old Falkenburg Road in Bracebridge and as a result of their investigation, charged 21 year-old Jacob Pattison of Muskoka Lakes Township with Impaired Operation, Over 80, Driving with Liquor Readily Available and Young Driver having a Blood Alchohol Concentration Above Zero. He will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on May 10th to answer to his charges.

On Wednesday April 13th at 4:45 a.m. Bracebridge OPP officers came upon a motor vehicle collision on Windermere Road in Muskoka Lakes Township while driving to a call for service.  The single motor vehicle appeared to have left the roadway and entered the ditch.  Police subsequently arrested and charged 41 year-old Angela Brazier of Muskoka Lakes Township with Impaired Care or Control of a Motor Vehicle and Over 80 Care or Control.  She will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on May 10th to answer to his charges.

In all cases, the accused operator received an immediate 90 day driver’s licence suspension and further had their vehicle towed and impounded.

Bracebridge OPP would like to thank all concerned members of the public who take the time to call police when they suspect someone of driving impaired.

Smith wants water level concerns raised with MNR

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith is urging further dialogue with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) about water levels in Muskoka.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, he said this year’s atypical Spring brought with it nasty flashbacks of the massive area flooding of 2013. While it wasn’t as bad as back then, he said many property owners were still affected this year and that lots of the damage happened to lake boathouses due to a combo of ice, wind and high water.

While the MNR was proactive in getting warnings out about pending flood conditions, Smith says some residents still have questions for the ministry about lake water levels.

The Mayor says the Town should make the ministry aware of its concerns about this year’s property damage and that dialogue between the MNRF and Bracebridge should continue.

Vulgar words spray painted on dog in Muskoka Lakes

A dog that was spray painted in Muskoka Lakes Township has prompted a cruelty to animals investigation by Bracebridge OPP. Police say the pet’s owner reported that their dog had been spray painted with vulgar language on April 11th in the area of Muskoka Road 141 in Muskoka Lakes.

The owner said the dog had wandered away from home and was found with words painted on the sides of it. It didn’t appear to have been injured. The investigation continues and police are asking anyone with information to contact them at (705) 645-2211  or by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 222-8477 .

 

Think this spring’s flood is bad? Imagine it three times bigger.

Commentary by Norah Fountain

Wear your snow boots and be ready with your umbrellas… it’s not unusual to have snow and rain almost simultaneously in April as we’ve seen the past few days, but it does pose challenges. Challenges not only like swelling lakes and rivers (which were cresting at time of writing) and resulting flood damage to property, but also minor wardrobe challenges as we try and figure out what coat and boots to grab on the way out the door.

Such is life in Muskoka, we say, shrugging our shoulders and plugging on as we wait for better spring weather. The bad news is that what seems like a more common occurrence is going to become even more common.

According to projections shared by the Muskoka Watershed Council, we should be preparing for water flows three times what we’re seeing now as part of the spring freshet.

In its report, Planning For Climate Change in Muskoka, the Council is projecting what the environment will look like by 2050 due to climate change and what impact that change will have on Muskoka.

So as we check to make sure our boats are still raised high enough above high water levels, and shake our heads at ice damage done to boathouses today, let’s jump ahead about 30 years and consider what could be happening then:

  • an earlier spring thaw
  • shorter snowmobiling and ice-fishing season (we’re already ice-free for three weeks longer than we were in the 1970s)
  • more winter freeze-thaw cycles
  • a wetter spring – in fact wetter in all months except July-October
  • more evaporation in summer, so a drier summer/fall

    Muskoka flood, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Big East River, Muskoka River, Black River
    Spring 2013 – 100 year Flood Event: Bracebridge

And yes, there will be a greater risk of spring floods (except maybe for years when winter thaws are more frequent).

Three times more water flow

BracebridgeFallsfromRoad
Bracebridge Falls, April 2015

As mentioned, there could be three times more water available to flow or flood in the four winter months. The District of Muskoka is already feeling the pressure of crumbling culverts – and we’ve seen road closures in this year’s flood because of such problems. Imagine what three times the water flow in spring will do to our infrastructure when it’s 30 years older? Will it be able to handle such greater volumes of run off? If you live on a flood plain now and have suffered damage, what will your insurance bills look like at mid century if your flooding experience is three times greater? Will more severe winter storms cause more power outages? Are we ready for that?

This year, it was suggested that people who have seen their roads washout in past spring floods should think about maybe moving out for the rest of the spring freshet – in case they got stranded. That was this year. Should we be doing something about roads now if we know that those roads in 2050 will likely be impassable during spring thaw? Or should we just ignore what a mess we might be leaving for our loved ones?

Drier doesn’t mean better

As for the other eight months of the year, assuming the projections are even just close to being correct, we could see about half as much water to nourish wetlands, rivers and lakes. How do we keep wetlands that are critical to a healthy ecosystem thriving if they’re lacking water? And what happens to our forests in prolonged drought?

As for lakes, you know what loves warmer temperatures? Algae. So summer conditions at mid century could be great for algal blooms. Note: The Council says data is currently lacking that would help predict where and when most blooms would occur and more research is needed to better understand how algae in our lakes will behave. Maybe somebody better get on that if we want our children to be swimming in the clear water we enjoy now.

There are a lot of questions in this commentary, opening the door to accusations of fear mongering. In my opinion, these questions have to be asked – and hopefully acted on – sooner rather than later. Planning ahead and acting over time is far more cost-effective than reacting to emergencies. Ignoring the possibilities will only cause huge headaches and bills – for us and our children personally and for our municipalities, which will come back to bites us personally again through higher taxes to deal with the inevitable. Not to mention the irreversible damage to our environment we’ve already caused.

Dr. Peter Sale, former chair of the Muskoka Watershed Council, has said the future doesn’t have to be so bleak if we start planning to adapt now to what’s coming. But he also recognizes that while “most residents of Muskoka know that climate is changing, they underestimate just how profound those changes will be.”

Climate Change: It’s going to cost you

If you have to clean up after water in your homes, rebuild boathouses, or even begin to have starter problems with your boats this summer because water seeped in, you’re going to feel the pain of high water flows. You may be more open than your drier neighbours to the thought of our municipal governments putting plans in place now to lessen the impact in future. I’ve felt the pain. Due to freezing and thawing, my own home was damaged. Same snow problem, same day, but considered two separate claims by my insurance company. That company (Johnson Inc.) dropped me just before renewal, leaving me scrambling to get high risk insurance at almost quadruple the cost – and all in one payment. You can be sure insurance companies are looking seriously at climate change projections.

Certainly, there is no denying that Muskoka is feeling the impact of climate change. And that impact will become greater as the temperature is projected to climb up to another three degrees by mid-century.

Get informed: Plan to attend a climate change session near you

As we approach Earth Day you might want to think about how you can learn more about what’s in store. Being informed is critical. You could register for the Watershed Council’s Summit on the Environment, for instance. That event takes place May 27 & 28 in Bracebridge and registration is open now. Dr. Sale will be giving a presentation on the MWC’s climate report at the Huntsville Public Library on Thursday, April 21 as part of Huntsville’s earth week activities. Click here to learn more about that presentation.  There’s also an Empowering Climate Change Activism Intergenerational Earth Day Workshop led by Monica Moore happening at the Bracebridge United Church on April 24.

Finally, I believe the media must do its part to help you be in the know. Future articles will explore what a changing climate means for the Muskoka forests we know and love.

Featured photo of Lady Muskoka Docks, April 2016

Related Articles:

April 8, 2016: Muskoka Flood update from Ministry of Natural Resources for April 8

April 20, 2015: Flood Watch issued for Muskoka, Parry Sound and northwest Haliburton

April 25, 2014: Flood Update: North Muskoka River holding steady, south Muskoka River and into Lake Muskoka rising slowly; boat capsize on Moon River

October 8, 2013: It WAS a 100-year event: MNR shares internal flood review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to start watching for turtles and snakes emerging for spring

Turtles, frogs, salamanders and snakes could start emerging this week in Muskoka thanks to the warmer weather on its way. According to Ontario Nature, here are details of what reptiles and amphibians Muskokans may spot, and how they can protect them in the coming days.

A few reptiles and amphibians have already been spotted in Muskoka this spring. But with the warmer weather, this week could rouse scores more.

snakes, turtles, newts
Red spotted newt photo by Scott Gillingwater courtesy of Ontario Nature

On a leisurely shoreline stroll you may spot a Blanding’s turtle or a smooth greensnake. If you turn over a log, you may find a red-spotted newt or a spotted salamander.

The onset of spring is an exciting time of year for outdoor enthusiasts as the veil of winter’s slumber is lifted from our wetlands, forests and meadows.

snakes, turtles, newts
Smooth green snake photo by Stirling Sztricsko, courtesy of Ontario Nature

The awakening of reptiles and amphibians is happening right at our feet. “Spring is one of my favorite times of year and is distinctively marked by the unique calls of different species of frogs and toads. The early season calls of wood and chorus frogs as well as spring peepers bring the night alive with sound,” says Emma Horrigan, Ontario Nature’s Citizen Science Coordinator.

Sadly though, reptiles and amphibians are experiencing global declines of 20 and 40 percent respectively. In Ontario, 75 percent of reptiles and 22 percent of amphibians are listed as at-risk provincially. These turtles, snakes, lizards, salamanders, frogs and toads have unique, specialized and fascinating life histories. But they suffer terribly from habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, persecution and pollution.

Become a citizen scientist

You can help by enlisting as a citizen scientist for the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which has been led by Ontario Nature since 2009. The data submitted by people of all skill levels is used to map the whereabouts of some of the province’s most enigmatic creatures. Ontario Nature’s spring is to fill in key data gaps where there are no recent sightings. While you’re enjoying the nicer weather, keep an eye out for reptiles and amphibians. They have fascinating traits and adaptations, and you can help their plight simply by reporting your sightings.

Featured photo of Blanding’s Turtle by Joe Crowley courtesy of Ontario Nature.

Background Information from Ontario Nature

Reptiles

  • Reptiles are experiencing global declines of 20 percent
  • 24 species of reptiles are found in Ontario:
    • 15 snakes
    • 8 turtles
    • 1 lizard
  • 18 of Ontario’s 24 species of reptile (75 percent) are listed as at risk under the Ontario Endangered Species Act

Amphibians

  • Amphibians are experiencing global declines of 40 percent
  • 23 species of amphibians are found in Ontario:
    • 10 frogs
    • 2 toads
    • 11 salamanders
  • 5 of Ontario’s 23 species of amphibian (22 percent) are listed as at risk under the Ontario Endangered Species Act

Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas

The atlas is a citizen-science program that tracks distributions and spatial trends of reptiles and amphibians across the province over time. The overarching goal is to increase the collective knowledge base of reptiles and amphibians. Equally important, however, is the engagement of non-scientists of all ages and abilities, in all parts of the province, in nature study and conservation.

  • In 2015, citizen scientists reported more than 29,000 sightings from across Ontario
  • More than 350,000 submissions have been reported by more than 3,000 people
  • Ontario Nature’s Lost Bay Nature Reserve hosts 24 species of reptiles and amphibians
  • The atlas was launched in 1984 and has been led by Ontario Nature since 2009
  • Least reported species: Allegheny Mountain dusky salamander (11)
  • Most reported species: spring peeper (65,052)

 

 

Muskoka Authors Association hosts spring events

Upcoming Workshops and Meetings from the Muskoka Authors Association include:

Get that Grant: Write Winning Applications with Heather O’Connor and Gwynn Scheltema

Sunday, April 17 in Bracebridge (Venue TBD)

10:00 am – 4:00 pm (Lunch Included)

Members and Students $45.00/Non-members $85.00

Find out about dozens of the grants and scholarships open to writers. Resource material on various grants (research, travel, project development) will be provided. Participants are encouraged to select and bring an actual grant application to work on. Send us the name of the grant you choose to help us focus on the requirements and your grant plans.

Heather M. O’Connor is a successful freelance writer and author; her latest title is the young adult novel, Betting Game. Heather has won four recent grants, totalling $15,000, including a prestigious Ontario Arts Council Works in Progress grant. Gwynn Scheltema is an award-winning fiction writer and internationally published poet. She has taught government employees how to write persuasive bios and CVs, and has won bursaries and creative writing scholarships.

Turn your Prose into Big Screen Action with Maja Ardal

Thursday, April 21, 2016

7:00 – 9:00 pm

St. Thomas Anglican Church, 4 Mary Street, Bracebridge.

Members Free/Non-members $20.00

Maja Ardal
Maja Ardal

Join Dora Award winning playwright / actor Maja Ardal as she shares her tips to turn your prose – be it novel, non-fiction or play – into action! Maja will talk about her experience working with TV and film scripts, as well as providing tactics for creating a screen treatment that sizzles.

This event is the regular monthly meeting of the Muskoka Authors Association.

ARCHETYPES, CHARACTERS & YOU with Donna Morrissey

Saturday, May 7 & Sunday, May 8, 2016 in Bracebridge (Venue TBD)

9:30 am – 3:00 pm (Lunch Included)

Members and Students $100.00/Non-members $175.00

Muskoka Authors
Donna Morrissey

A Workshop with Donna Morrissey, International Award Winner Author. This intensive two-day workshop will teach us to UNDERSTAND the people in our lives, and/or create AUTHENTIC fiction/memoir.

This course is designed for Memoir, Fiction, and Non-writers. Beginners are welcome.

To register for these events, or for more information, contact David Patterson at 705-990-0322.

Payment may be made in advance via cheque to Muskoka Authors Association, 3 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge, ON P1L 1S4 or you can pay by cheque or cash at the door.

Orillia drug bust finds crack, cocaine and marijuana

A 41-year-old Orillia man faces drug charges after police executed a search at a Mary Street residence in that city on Friday. Police say they seized quantities of crack cocaine, cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia that is associated with trafficking.
Daniel Pollock has been charged with Possession of Cocaine, Possession of Cocaine for the Purpose of Trafficking, Possession of Cannabis Marihuana, and Breach of Probation.
Pollock remains in custody and has a bail hearing scheduled for April 8th in Barrie.

Know your phragmites and what to do about them

Muskoka Watershed Council will be celebrating the launch of its new Phragmites identification card with a special event at its monthly meeting on April 15th. The Phragmites identification card was developed through a grant from the Smart and Caring Muskoka fund, administered by the Muskoka Community Foundation, and in partnership with the District of Muskoka.

MWC members, the public, and invited guests will hear presentations from Kellie Sherman, with the Ontario Invasive Plants Council, who will talk about the threat posed by Phragmites, Nancy Vidler, from the Lambton Shores Phragmites Community Group, who will discuss a community group’s effort to fight Phragmites, and Stuart Paul, from the District of Muskoka, who will walk through reporting a Phragmites sighting using the PhragSpotter App.

New phragmites identification card: know the difference between native and invasive species

The presentations will conclude with the release of the new Phragmites identification card and refreshments. The card was developed to help Muskokans distinguish between the native, non-invasive species of Phragmites (Phragmites americanus) and the invasive species (Phragmites australis), also called European Common Reed. The card also includes tips on ways to prevent the spread of this invasive species.

Invasive Phragmites has been a growing concern in Muskoka, particularly on the Georgian Bay coast where this species has had a significant impact on coastal wetlands. Spearheaded by Georgian Bay Forever, over 8,000 kilograms of invasive Phragmites was removed last summer from 16 communities along the coast from Honey Harbour to the North Channel. Further inland, Phragmites is often found in roadside ditches and wetland areas.

The public is invited to join us on April 15th to learn about Phragmites and pick up a copy of the identification card. The meeting begins at 1 pm in the Council Chambers at the District of Muskoka administration building, located at 70 Pine Street in Bracebridge.

Woman injured in Gravenhurst house fire

A kitchen fire this afternoon in Gravenhurst injured one person and caused significant damage to a home in the centre of town. Just after 2pm, Gravenhurst firefighters were called to a home located at 635 First Street South. On arrival, they found smoke coming from the home. Two occupants of the home managed to escape, however one – a 52 year old woman – suffered first degree burns to her hands when she attempted to put out the fire. She was treated at the scene by Muskoka paramedics, but was not taken to the hospital.

The fire started on the stove top when a pot was left unattended with the burner on. “The occupants were outside when they heard their smoke alarm activate, and upon investigating, discovered the fire,” said Fire Chief Larry Brassard. “The woman used a fire extinguisher in an attempt to put out the fire, and was burned in the process,” he added. While the woman was attempting to extinguish the fire, another person called 9-1-1 quite promptly which lead to a quick response by Gravenhurst firefighters. The fire spread into the walls and ceiling of the kitchen.  Firefighters had to cut away a portion of each to extinguish the fire completely.

“Once again, this fire points to the importance of having working smoke alarms, and being prepared for an emergency in your home,” said Brassard. “The woman’s quick actions undoubtedly slowed the progress of the fire as well. It’s unfortunate that she somehow burned her hands in the process of trying to put the fire out.”

The fire caused approximately $10,000.00 in damage. Representatives from the Gravenhurst Salvation Army also attended the scene to offer support for the people affected by the fire.

Multi-million dollar upgrade starts at Cascade Generation Station in Parry Sound

Bracebridge Generation Ltd. has announced it is starting its $17.5M upgrade to the Cascade Generation station in Parry Sound. Built in 1919, officials say this station produced 1.2 megawatts of green electricity and is at its operational end, making it unsafe. In a press release, the company explains the upgrade will consist of demolishing the current facility and erecting a new contemporary station that is more efficient to generate 3.4 megawatts of electricity, at times enough to supply all of Parry Sound’s homes when at full capacity. A local Aesthetics Advisory Committee was used consisting of citizens from Parry Sound who created the contemporary generation station design.

“This committee was of great value due to the visually central location of the generation station and when completed will be something our whole community will be proud of,” explained Parry Sound Mayor Jamie McGarvey.

CascadeExisting
Existing Cascade facility: Featured photo shows artist’s rendering of what is to be built

“After 3 years of environmental studies and approvals, demolition and construction is beginning as we anticipate that the Cascade station will be back producing green electricity in October 2017,” stated Bryan Ingram, Manager of Bracebridge Generation.

Of interest is that almost 100% of the project is ‘made in Ontario’ consisting of consultants, engineers, civil contractors, turbine & generator manufacturers and electrical components. Bracebridge Generation estimates that $4M of local labour and materials will be used during the upgrade. “For the bid process it was important to ensure that local labour and materials were used which creates investment in Parry Sound and the surrounding area,” explained Chris Litschko, CEO of Lakeland Holding (Bracebridge Generation is a subsidiary company of Lakeland).

Lakeland Power continues to upgrade parts of the distribution system within Parry Sound in preparation to distribute the increased green electricity generated from the Cascade station.

Also, Lakeland Energy/Networks is installing 10 kilometers of fibre optic cable from the Cascade station to Hydro One’s Transformer Station south of Parry Sound so the locations can communicate with each other.

Artist's rendering of facility to be built
Artist’s rendering of facility to be built

Along this fibre optic route, both residents and businesses will have an opportunity to connect to one of Canada’s fastest 1 Gigabit internet services.

“All totaled, Lakeland’s consolidated company consisting of Lakeland Power, Lakeland Energy/Networks and Bracebridge Generation will be investing more than $19M in Parry Sound over the next few years,” said Litschko

Parry Sound merged its electricity generation and distribution assets into Lakeland Holding Ltd. on July 1, 2014 and Bracebridge Generation Ltd. is a subsidiary of the Holding company. “The upgrade has been in the works since 2003 and as a larger company with the financial and technical resources, we are able to complete this much needed upgrade,” added Litschko.

 

Conditions, lake and level update as of April 5 from MNR

(PARRY SOUND MUSKOKA April 5, 12pm). The MNR is continuing its flood warning. In a release issued at noon today, the Ministry says people in flood prone areas should continue to take precautions to protect their property. Here are the current conditions, according to the MNR:

Lake levels and river flows have increased significantly over the past 10 days following two significant rain events in conjunction with continued melting of the snow pack. High water levels in Huntsville Lakes (Lake Vernon, Fairy Lake and Peninsula Lake) and Lake of Bays have peaked and with given forecasted weather conditions are expected to begin to trend downwards over the week. High water levels west of Lake of Bays and including waterbodies on the North and South Branches of the Muskoka River and Moon River/Bala Reach are expected to continue to increase as the run off from these rain events pass through the watershed.

The local snow pack east of Huntsville still contains over 50mm of water content. The current weather forecast suggests that this snowpack should continue to melt slowly at this time.

During this time of year we can expect higher and faster flowing water in most watercourses. Slippery and unstable banks and extremely cold water temperatures can lead to very hazardous conditions around any water body. Water levels and flows in local lakes and rivers are expected to continue to slowly rise before stabilizing within the next few days.

Update April 4: After receiving between 40-60mm of rain from March 30 to 31, most river flows have peaked and are currently declining.

The rate of rise in lake levels has slowed significantly or stopped at some locations.

The area is forecasted to receive up to 20 cm of snow over the next few days as colder than normal temperatures move through the area. The minimal accumulation of new snow does not cause great concerns for impacts to water levels and flows at this time but MNRF crews will be measuring the local snow pack to access the remaining snow water content across the area.
Below is a chart showing lake levels as of today (April 4, 2016). In Muskoka, the three big lakes are all above the start of the high water zone (in fact the chart shows all lakes that are above high water zone at this time). Property owners in low lying flood prone areas should take precautions.
Lake Levels April 4 2016
Current River Water Flows
 Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.36.15 AM

Ottawa man faces charges after assault in Bracebridge

An Ottawa man faces charges after allegedly assaulting another man Sunday morning in Bracebridge. Officers from the Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), with the help of the Muskoka Crime Unit and the Forensic Identification Unit, are investigating the incident.

Police responded to a 9-1-1 call on early Sunday morning (April 3, 2016 at 3:00 a.m.) in the area of Maple Street in Bracebridge.  When they arrived at the scene, they say they determined that one man had been assaulted with a weapon.  The type of weapon used was not identified. The victim and the assailant were both transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police have charged a 33 year-old Ottawa man who will appear before the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge tomorrow to answer to his charges.

Ontario proposing ranked ballot option for Municipal Elections

The province will introduce changes today to the Municipal Elections Act that would, if passed, modernize municipal elections and provide the option of using ranked ballots in future municipal elections.

Between May and July 2015, Ontario consulted on potential changes to the Municipal Elections Act and received more than 3,400 submissions. Most submissions were from members of the public and supported giving municipalities the option of using ranked ballots in future elections, which would allow a voter to rank candidates in order of preference. The option to use ranked ballots would begin for the 2018 municipal elections.

Other proposed changes to the act would, if passed, potentially increase transparency and accountability and make election rules clear and modern, by:

>Shortening the campaign calendar by opening nominations for candidates on May 1 instead of January 1
>Creating a framework to regulate third party advertising, including contribution and spending limits
>Making campaign finance rules clearer and easier to follow for voters, candidates and contributors, including giving all municipalities the option to ban corporate and union donations
>Removing barriers that could affect electors and candidates with disabilities
>Making it easier to add or change information on the voters’ list

QUICK FACTS
>No Canadian jurisdiction currently uses ranked ballots.
>There are 444 municipalities in Ontario.
>In 2006, the City of Toronto was given the authority to ban union and corporate contributions, and has prohibited these contributions for the past two elections. It is currently the only municipality with the ability to do so.

New outpatient appointment scheduling process at Muskoka hospitals

(MAHC release) Today, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) is launching the first phase in a new, dedicated outpatient appointment scheduling process that is more centered around the patient.

Starting April 4, 2016 patients who are being referred for non-urgent Diagnostic Imaging (such as x-ray, CT scan, bone density and mammography) and Cardio-Respiratory tests (such as blood pressure monitoring and heart stress tests) at MAHC will be directed to call the dedicated Outpatient Appointment Scheduling line at 1-877-348-6264 to make their appointment(s) three business days after seeing their care provider. The three-day turnaround allows MAHC to process the requisition.

Previously, outpatients would await a phone call from the hospital telling them when their appointment is. The new appointment scheduling process puts patients in the driver seat to schedule their care when it works for them. For outpatients who are coming to the hospital for multiple tests, it will enable better coordination of multiple appointments to support only one trip to the hospital when possible.

Self serve outpatient appointment setting

“Giving patients the power to set their appointment for when it’s most convenient for them will relieve some of the stress around their access to care. It will also make the registration process faster on appointment day,” says Natalie Bubela, Chief Executive Officer at MAHC.

Leading up to implementation, MAHC has been working diligently to ensure physicians and nurse practitioners in our communities understand their role to educate patients in the new process.

“We appreciate their support through this transition to a new, patient-centered process,” Bubela adds. “We also look forward to adding more outpatient procedures to this centralized scheduling model so other patients can benefit from this convenience.”

Outpatient Appointment Scheduling staff are available to book non-urgent Diagnostic Imaging and/or Cardio-Respiratory tests Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 1-877-348-6264.

Flood updates from Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst

UPDATE from the Town of Gravenhurst April 4, 2016:

The Town of Gravenhurst, led by the Emergency Control Group, continue to closely monitor water levels and road conditions directly impacted by flooding.

Gauge levels on South Kahshe Lake and Seven River decreased slightly overnight. However, the gauge level on the Black River continues to increase and has crested portions of Coopers Falls road. The Emergency Control group will continue to assess the situation and provide regular updates to the public.

Sand and sand bags continue to be available for the public at the Crawford Road Public Works Shop and Joseph Place Road cul-de-sac.

UPDATE from the Township of Muskoka Lakes April 4, 2016

Fill your own sandbags are being made available to property owners in Muskoka Lakes. Sandbags and sand are available at the Glen Orchard Garage, 3951 Muskoka Road 169.

UPDATE from the Town of Huntsville April 4, 2016:

FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT

Water levels in the downtown core of Huntsville appear to have peaked and will gradually decline over the course of the day. The cold temperatures overnight have caused some icing which could cause some minor fluctuations in the levels.

The Town is advising local residents that high water levels are on a slow and steady decline and are expected to continue to decrease as the flows pass through the system.

Town officials are asking residents in the lower areas of our watershed to expect water levels to remain high as the flows make their way through the lakes. However, it is not anticipated that the levels will negatively impact residents once the high flows pass the downtown core. Property owners in low-lying areas should continue to take precautionary measures to protect their property. For tips on doing so please visit the Town of Huntsville website at www.huntsville.ca

“Municipal staff and services have worked diligently over the weekend to deal with the problems caused during this event,” said Town of Huntsville CAO Denise Corry. “We thank the residents for their patience and understanding while Staff works to restore any remaining affected areas.”

Some roads remain closed at this time. Please note that flooded roads are closed for public safety and it is illegal to drive on a closed road. Check the Town’s website for a complete list of road closures at www.huntsville.ca

The Town continues to remind residents to stay clear of waterways. Parents and guardians are also advised to remind children to stay clear of open waters, creeks and rivers. No further media updates will be provided.

UPDATE from the Town of Huntsville April 3, 2016:

The Town of Huntsville is advising local residents that with the cold temperatures overnight, we have seen a decrease in water flow and water levels appear to be receding in the upper watershed.

Town officials expect water levels in downstream areas, including the downtown, to continue to increase slightly over the next 12-24 hours before beginning to drop.

Town officials are asking residents in the lower areas of our watershed to expect water levels to remain high and possibly increase slightly as the flows make their way through the lakes. Although, it is not anticipated that the levels will negatively impact residents once the high flows pass the downtown core. Property owners in low-lying areas should continue to take precautionary measures to protect property as water levels increase. For tips on doing so please visit the Town of Huntsville website at www.huntsville.ca

“Municipal staff and services along with emergency services are continuing to monitor the situation,” said Town of Huntsville CAO Denise Corry. The Town will continue to provide updates as required.

Roads that have been closed due to flooding near the East River watershed are expected to drain over the course of the day. However, these closures remain. Please note that flooded roads are closed for public safety and it is illegal to drive on a closed road. Check the Town’s website for a complete list of road closures at www.huntsville.ca

The Town continues to remind residents to stay clear of waterways. Parents and guardians are also advised to remind children to stay clear of open waters, creeks and rivers. For further updates please visit www.huntsville.ca  and follow local media.

UPDATE from the Town of Huntsville April 2, 2016: The Town of Huntsville is advising local residents that with the cooler temperatures overnight, we have seen a decrease in water flow and water levels appear to have peaked.

Town officials are asking residents to expect water levels in areas experiencing high water to remain constant for at least the remainder of the day. It is expected that they will begin to drop later tonight.

Town officials expect water levels in downstream areas, including the downtown, to continue to rise for the next 48 hours before beginning to drop. Property owners in low-lying areas should continue to take precautionary measures to protect property as water levels increase. For tips for doing so please visit the Town of Huntsville website at Huntsville.ca

“Municipal staff and services along with emergency services are continuing to monitor the situation,” said Town of Huntsville CAO Denise Corry. The Town will continue to provide updates as required.

Most Town roads have reopened. However, some closures remain. Please note that flooded roads are closed for public safety and it is illegal to drive on a closed road. Check the Town’s website for a complete list of road closures at Huntsville.ca

The Town continues to remind residents to stay clear of waterways. Parents and guardians are also advised to remind children to stay clear of open waters, creeks and rivers.

UPDATE from the Town of Gravenhurst April 3

Gauge levels at Kahshe Lake and Severn River remain the same as Saturday morning (April 2) with no increase.  Black River is rising and is now at 47″. It had started to creep onto the road edge along Cooper Falls Road (District Rd 6). The culvert at Merkley Road is now repaired. All other roads reported previously remain in the same condition and will continue to be monitored.

UPDATE from the Town of Gravenhurst April 2, 2016: Affected Gravenhurst Areas

Gauge levels in the Black River, Kashe Lake and Seven River increased overnight. However flooded road sections have significantly subsided in the majority of the Town with the exception of South Kashe Lake and Severn Road areas. All roads remain passable and will continue to be monitored. Changes to conditions are Highlighted in bold.

ROADS OVERVIEW

Muskoka Road 49 (Canning Road)

  • Water overtop one lane @ 1605 –Passable/Cautionary flood signage in place

Peninsula Road

  • Intersection with North Muldrew Lake Road – Water subsided

Muskoka Road 17 (Muskoka Beach)

  • Water overtop road both lanes @ 1451 – Water now completely off road
  • Driveway culvert washout@ 1310 – Repairs under way

Muskoka Road 13 (Southwood)

  • Road washout @ 2017 – Repairs completed/ full lanes open
  • Water overtop road @ 1026 – Water now completely off road

Sparrow Lake Route D

  • Water overtop road – Water now completely off road

Severn River Road

  • Water overtop road both lanes @ 1117 – Passable/Cautionary flood signage remains in place

Kashe lake Road

  • Water overtop road both lanes @ 1169 –Passable/Cautionary flood signage remains in place with flasher units

Muskoka Road 6 (Doe Lake Road/Coopers Falls)

  • Water overtop single lane @ Fire Route 25 –Water is subsiding and is now only encroaching approximately 2 feet into the roadway cautionary flood signage remains in place
  • Cooper Falls Road embankment washout – Road closure reduced to a partial lane closure with Traffic control between municipal addresses1401-1472/Contractor continues to work onsite

Muskoka Road 20 (Doe Lake Road)

  • Water overtop single lane @ 2420 to 2432 – Water has now subsided and is at the roads edge cautionary flood signage remains in place

EMERGENCY SAND

Sand and sand bags are available at the Crawford Road Public Works Shop and Joseph Place Road cul-de-sac – Material to be topped up for weekend.

UPDATE from the Town of Bracebridge April 1, 2016: The Town of Bracebridge Emergency Control Group is taking steps to address flooding in Bracebridge as a precaution based on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Flood Warning for the area. The MNRF reports that flooding is imminent within watercourses in the municipality, including the North and South Branches of the Muskoka River and the Black River.

Muskoka Flood
Lady Muskoka docks below where south and north branches of Muskoka River converge, Bracebridge

The Town’s Emergency Control Group met today at 11:00 a.m. and will meet over the weekend if required to assess local conditions and to review any new information provided by the MNRF and Lakeland Power.
The Town’s EOC will be meeting again on Monday at 11:00 a.m. to review updated information from MNRF and other sources. The Town will provide notifications and media releases as necessary.

SAND BAGS AVAILABLE
Residents affected by flooding in past years are advised to take action to secure or protect property in advance of river flows and lake levels rising to flood levels.
The Town of Bracebridge is making sand bags available free of charge at Fowler Construction located at 1206 Rosewarne Drive.  Fowler will be open Friday April 1 until 4:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to provide sandbags for use at affected Bracebridge properties.

In addition to the Fowler location, empty sand bags will be available at the front reception counter at the Municipal Office, 1000 Taylor Court, Friday, April 1 until 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday April 2 and Sunday April 3 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Residents will be able to fill these bags themselves from a sand stock pile at the turnaround at the end of Taylor Court. Residents must bring their own shovels.

Residents on rivers and lakes are advised to keep a close watch on water conditions and regularly check for updated messages. Parents and guardians are advised to remind children to stay clear of open waters, creeks and rivers.

Featured photo shows water over River Road on the north branch of the Muskoka River just upstream from Bracebridge Falls taken April 2, 2016, 12pm. Photos by Norah Fountain.

Road rage assault on Hwy 11 in Huntsville; OPP asking for public’s help to find suspects

On Thursday March 31, 2016 at about 4:30pm a newer white Ford pickup truck was north on Highway #11 near North Waseosa Lake Rd.   The pick-up truck, driven by a 65 year-old male from Huntsville was trying to pass a smaller vehicle that was apparently traveling slower than the speed limit.  The vehicle would not let the pick-up track pass by cutting in front of him.  The driver of the pick-up truck eventually pulled over to the side of the road.

The male was approached by the two occupants of the small vehicle along the side of the highway and was assaulted.    The only description that could be provided is the two occupants were male and in their early 20’s, about 5’10” in height and one wearing a dark coat and yellow and black ball cap. They were possibly traveling in a smaller older model Subaru or Honda, silver or gold in colour.  The 65 year-old victim suffered substantial facial injuries and had attended a local hospital shortly after the assault.

Anyone who may have seen anything in the area of the North Waseosa Lake Rd. northbound exit that may assist Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in locating the suspects is asked to contact Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.