Windsor

Erosion along Wheatley, Hillman Marsh, Point Pelee shorelines 'gravely concerning,' say experts

Storm-generated waves, erosion from the central base of Lake Erie, as well as record-high water levels are all contributing to damage along the shoreline. 

''What we're observing on all of the properties is active and significant erosion,' says Tim Byrne

High water levels and storm-generated waves have greatly eroded the shoreline at southwestern Ontario parks, like Wheatley Provincial Park. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Erosion along the shorelines of three major southwestern Ontario parks has experts deeply concerned. 

Tim Byrne, director of watershed management with the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), said coastline erosion along Wheatley Provincial Park, Hillman Marsh Conservation Area and Point Pelee National Park is "gravely concerning."

Byrne said storm-generated waves, erosion from the central base of Lake Erie, as well as record-high water levels are all contributing to damage along the shoreline. 

"What we're observing on all of the properties is active and significant erosion," he said, adding that observers in Hillman Marsh have noted the complete loss of the beach ridge that separates the wetland. 

"A new … beach ridge is actually forming. But the old treed beach area that had been separating the wetlands is now fully destroyed."

Byrne said weathering and erosion are natural processes, but added that they're accelerated as a result of high water levels, among other factors.

"With the lake levels at all-time record levels, it's not surprising, but it is still heartbreaking to see that type of loss, especially on publicly held lands," he said. 

LTVCA involved in shoreline management planning

Mark Peacock, chief administrative officer and secretary/treasurer for the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Area (LTVCA) echoed Byrne's concerns about the shoreline, saying the issue is "serious and it is alarming."

Peacock however explained that his organization is involved in shoreline management planning, rather than direct conservation efforts.

A shoreline management plan is currently under development by a consortium of private and public partners, including the federal and provincial governments and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

"So we're working with that team to develop solutions or, if not solutions, ways of addressing what's happening with erosion along the lake, which the Wheatley people are as well," said Peacock. 

Gary Wheeler, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) said the "Ongoing shoreline erosion may require review and analysis from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the local municipality, conservation authority, federal jurisdictions (including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans), private consultants and environmental assessments with public consultation."

In an email statement, Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls said park staff are "working to remove and relocate park infrastructure including park roads, buildings, sewage and electrical services that have been threatened by shoreline erosion."

With files from Jason Viau

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