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7.0 Elbow Lake Catchment: Challenges/Issues

Developed by the Elbow Lake (Parham) Association and its partners, the Elbow Lake Stewardship Plan (2012) provides information on many aspects of the lake environment, as well as issues of concern identified by the lake community that could threaten the long-term health of the lake. The following list includes some of those identified issues that have implications for the water and land resources of the lake ecosystem. Specific issues noted by the lake community are indicated by an asterisk.

Development

Waterfront property development is occurring primarily through the transformation of traditional, seasonal cottages into larger year-round dwellings. This transition is taking place either through re-development of an existing cottage lot or incremental alterations (additions, sleeping cabins, gazebos, decks, sheds, boat houses, garages, lawns, shoreline modifications, docks), all of which may put additional stress on the sensitive shoreline zone and the lake along with potential, added septic system loading.

Many waterfront properties contain existing non-conforming dwellings with respect to minimum water frontage and lot area and are often located within 30 metres of the water that require minor variances for expansion and/or reconstruction of dwellings where standard development setbacks from water are difficult to achieve. In these cases, of which there are many, staff at the Township of Central Frontenac and the Conservation Authority often meet with resistance and push back when attempts are made to implement standards for development setbacks, vegetated shorelines and septic systems.

Monitoring implementation of conditions of planning and regulatory approvals is challenging due to a lack of resources.

Headwaters/In-water Habitat/Shorelines

The Elbow Lake Association has been actively promoting good shoreline practices for many years. The Executive is disappointed that more Elbow Lake residents have not ordered their 2013 Love your Lake Shoreline Assessment Reports or participated in the RVCA Shoreline Naturalization Program.*

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the level of aquatic vegetation in Elbow Lake has increased significantly since the Frontenac Stewardship Council conducted a survey in 2010. At the time, Eurasian Watermilfoil was found at six sites with only one patch being of significant size; in 2017, at least one other large patch has appeared along with other smaller ones.*

Elbow Lake has seen a small increase in the area of settlement (0.28 ha.) along its shoreline between 2008 and 2014, due primarily to a loss of woodland.

Two of twenty-seven sampled headwater sites in the catchment have been modified (one is channelized, the other is a roadside ditch)(see Section 3.4.2 of this report).

Littoral zone mapping identifying substrate type, vegetation and habitat features along with opportunities for shoreline enhancement is unavailable for Elbow Lake.

Land Cover

Land cover has changed across the catchment (2008 to 2014) largely as a result of an increase in the area of settlement (4 ha.) and wetland (2 ha.) and loss of woodland (6 ha.)(see Section 4.1 of this report).

Wetlands cover 27 percent (1548 ha.) of the catchment (in 2014). Ninety-three percent (1434 ha.) of these wetlands remain unevaluated and unregulated and although they are not under imminent threat from development activity, they do remain vulnerable to drainage and land clearing activities in the absence of any regulatory and planning controls that would otherwise protect them for the many important hydrological, social, biological and ecological functions/services/values they provide to landowners and the surrounding community (see Section 4.3 of this report).

Water Quality

Elbow Lake surface chemistry water quality rating ranges from Very Poor to Poor (see Section 2.1 of this report).

The Elbow Lake Association notes that phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations have shown persistent instances of elevated levels above the Provincial Water Quality Objectives through the years. This may be due to the influence of such factors as the large wetland along the south shore of the lake and repeated dynamiting of the beaver dam along the CPR railroad.*   

Fish Creek surface chemistry water quality rating ranges from Fair in its upper reach (at the Wagarville Rd. crossing) to Poor and Good close to its outlet into the West Basin of Bobs Lake (upstream of the Bobs Lake Rd. crossing)(see Section 2.2 of this report).

Fish Creek instream biological water quality conditions range from Poor to Good at the County Road 38 inventory location (south of Parham)(see Section 3.3.1 of this report).