A pain in the groyne

Feds authorize lake construction without consulting local stakeholders

Matt Collings, acting manager at Pete’s Marina who wears a tropical shirt as he surveys Lake Windermere, has heard rumours about the federal government’s construction intentions for the rock wall that holds the lake’s water levels in place and prevents it from flowing like the river from which it came and to which it returns.

That rock wall, also called a weir or a groyne, is a hazard for boats that can get caught up on it if they don’t pay careful attention to staying in the deeper passage way.

The rumours he has heard bear no similarities to the federal government’s actual plans, which include driving 13 untreated wood piles into the groyne. These piles will stick up three to five meters above water level, depending on the season.

Why don’t the rumours he’s heard match with actuality? Maybe because the federal government hasn’t been sharing its plans, not even with the District of Invermere (DOI) or the Lake Windermere Ambassadors (LWA).

“I didn’t have any advance warning of this really,”said Mayor Al Miller, adding that the federal approach “certainly is a big surprise because typically you get little warnings that you can deal with.”

The DOI didn’t have an opportunity to provide input or share their concerns.

“Any time you’re doing something and are close to the District property for us to be able to have our input would have been the right thing. But it’s gone past that now,” he said. “We did have people complaining to us that they didn’t know (the groyne) was there and ran up and caused damage (to their boats). So I think the positive takeaway is that it will be well marked. Is it the way we would have liked to have had it done? We’ll have to wait and see, but in future maybe there are some other possibilities that we can work with.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Miller had spoken about the possibility of turning the groyne into a boardwalk that would be connected to the Lake Windermere Resort Lands, which the DOI is taking over.

“Having a bit of a boardwalk out there would have been, in my mind, something quite nice – a special area to be able to go out and enjoy,” he said, adding that he thinks the federal construction means his vision can’t come true.

Besides the lack of consultation, he is concerned with how the area will look once the construction is complete.

“It looks like the pilings are going to be sticking up fairly high, and I’m not sure about that. But I don’t think there’s a lot we can do about it now,” he said.

The LWA is also displeased that they didn’t have the opportunity to share their thoughts about the plan in advance.

“The LWA is concerned about the lack of public consultation prior to approval and accepting a bid on this project,” said program coordinator Shannon McGinty. “There is concern around whether this is the most effective way to mark the groyne and if it will provide adequate warning to boaters on Lake Windermere.”

While the LWA was formally informed of the construction plans during the evening of Tuesday, July 30th, the notice they received said the work could have started two weeks earlier and will be complete by the end of August.

No one from the federal government was willing to discuss the project and any consultation that had been done to date “until they have a clear direction on this,” said Charles Drouin, a spokesperson for Public Service and Procurement Canada. “The people aren’t very happy with what’s going on right now so apparently there are, or there might be, discussions related to this within the next 24 to 48 hours.”

This story will be updated when Public Service and Procurement Canada is prepared to respond about the construction project they authorized.

Back at the marina watching a boat pass the groyne area and head into the lake, Mr. Collings said: “I definitely feel like they should let people know what’s going on… I just feel it’s important to communicate that with the community so everyone is informed.”

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