Presentation to Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole – November 19th, 2013

Introduction and presentation:

James Boyd 1818 Peninsula Rd. R.R. # 2 Port Carling Ontario. P0B 1J0

  1. The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association are here this morning to discuss the use of “Ice Away” (bubbler) systems surrounding docks and boat houses in winter months, and the detrimental effect and safety issues these cause on the Muskoka Lakes.
  2. There have been numerous calls to the MRA, the MLA, the Township office, the OPP, local snowmobile clubs and local Realtors as well as many articles written in the local press regarding the displeasure of many cottager and property owners regarding the unregulated use of these systems.
  3. Approximately 30 years ago the use of steel piles to support boat houses and docks began. The reason for this was it seemed to be a modern approach to an age old problem of rock filled cribs made of wood that rotted away over the years. There were also issues with disruption of fish spawning beds which the MNR was deeply concerned with. Unfortunately because these steel structures would not withstand ice shoves (explain), the novel idea of putting in a propeller pump or air bubbler system to agitate the water around the steel structure to prevent freezing came into use around the same time.
  4. As a direct result of this, and with no control of design or size of the devices being used, these systems have created large areas of open water that cause a real danger to the general public on Muskoka Lakes in the winter and spring season. This danger includes the recreational public (skiers, fishermen, snowmobilers),  the shoreline structures of other property owners and even our Township Emergency Services attending to a winter callout in the area.
  5. In the pictures below, the solid dark areas extending out from the shores show the extent to which the iceaway systems are unnecessarily creating large and unsafe openings in the ice.Satalite photos of ice damage from ice away systems - A.jpgSatalite photos of ice damage from ice away systems - E.jpg
  6. I have spoken with engineers and dock construction companies that say ice away systems do not prevent “ice shoves” against structures but do keep the basic structure free of ice preventing damage when the water levels are drawn down mid-winter or conversely rise during the spring freshet.
  7. There is no need to have an open water area of more than 4 feet surrounding a structure and should not exceed 10 ft. at the outer limit.
  8. Many Cottage owners turn on their systems at Thanksgiving and run ful ltime until they return in the spring.
  9. We ask you to refer to the Canadian Criminal Code Section 263 (1) and 263 (3) as to the requirements to protect open water caused by ice away systems.
  10. The Township claims to have no jurisdiction over what is put into the lakes or how it is operated. However, if one is to clearly take a look at the safety issues presented here, we feel the Township should be proactive rather to preventing possible harm or death to anyone who wishes to have access to the Lakes in the winter.
  11. The fact is that the Township has set construction standards and approved the installation of structures in and on the Lakes. We feel by extension the use of ice away systems preventing damage to these structures should also fall under their authority to regulate. Most warning signs, lights and ice away systems (via electrical cord) are all attached to the boat houses and docks.
  12. If there is a question of the Township having the authority to regulate ice way systems, it is a simple matter for the Township to apply to the Federal Authorities (Ocean and Fisheries), perhaps with the assistance of our local MP Tony Clement, to seek permission for the Township to oversee the installation and operation of these systems. There are many similar exception examples of this throughout Canada.
  13. It has been suggested by many cottagers, contractors and local “cottage watch” people that there is no requirement for over 80% of structures to use ice away systems. They are naturally protected by bays and are not exposed to large open areas in the lakes facing south/east and south/west.
  14. These systems are also causing the main lake ice body to disconnect early from the shoreline in the spring. Instead of decomposing gradually these unnatural open water leaders allow a large mass of ice to float away striking nearby or distant docks and boat houses in spite of them also having a powerful ice away system in place.
  15. The most effective system, drawing the least amount of power, is an air pump that will keep a structure ice free with open water from 2 to 10 feet away. I will not address the various available units as it would take too much time to do so.

At this time the MRA would like to make the following recommendations and would welcome working with the Township of Muskoka Lakes to enshrine the following ideas:

  • Develop a set of Township guidelines…perhaps with the assistance of a hired consultant. This guideline should address safety signage, warning lighting, fencing, area to be protected.
  • A Township permit would be required before any installation was started.
  • Anyone wanting to install an “Ice Away” system would need to demonstrate the need for such a system to the Township.
  • They would need the consent of adjacent shoreline owners perhaps also affected by such an installation.
  • Provide evidence that the system would be monitored weekly or bi-weekly for compliance.

In Conclusion :

The Muskoka Ratepayers would like to convey that we have the strong support of the Ontario Provincial Police, The Muskoka Lakes Association, The Muskoka Tourists Association, Snowmobile Clubs and many area Realtors. As well, many cottagers and property owners on the Muskoka Lakes would like to see some direction on this issue.

Also as a courtesy, Councilor Ron Brent has offered to fly any Township of Muskoka Lakes staff or Council member this winter to see firsthand the results of these unregulated systems.

Thank you for allowing the MRA to make this presentation today and we would be most interested to assist the Township in going forward in this matter.

Images used in presentaion

For an look at some interesting pictures and satellite images on the effects of bubblers, please follow the link to a presentation that has recently been made to the Township of Muskoka Lakes, the District of Muskoka, and the town of Gravenhurst – The Effects of Bubbler Systems