Taking the high view

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by Shaun McLaughlin

On August 22, I had the great pleasure to fly over Mississippi Mills in the Husky float plane owned and piloted by Mike O’Malley. From Appleton we followed the river downstream past Almonte and Blakeney to Pakenham. We banked left and flew over the Pakenham highlands, my farm, Clayton and Taylor Lakes, and Wolf Grove before touching down in Appleton Bay.

From 1500 feet up, our sprawling community is diverse and picturesque with its fields, forests and waterfalls. The only blight is the dying forests between the Appleton dam and Almonte. The red maples near the river are dead or dying.

The same forest type on similar marshy terrain above Appleton is healthy. Riverside trees downstream of Almonte look fine. Something about the river environment downstream of Appleton is killing the forest. It can’t be insects or other pestilence because such would logically affect upstream areas too.

The cause is surely the high river level maintained by the Enerdu dam. In 2004, the boards atop the dam were increased in height. (I remember sitting at the Ironworks pub with two friends discussing the new boards.) Two years later, the Almonte wetland forest began showing signs of distress. A recent report by Mississippi Valley Conservation stated that the river level was a factor. I think it is the only factor. It looks just like a forest drowning from a new beaver dam.

A vocal and effective citizen’s group is working hard to fix the problem by gathering information and leaning on provincial authorities. As a municipal representative, I am uncomfortable that Council has not debated this issue, nor passed a resolution expressing its displeasure to the province. It may be outside of our jurisdiction, but it is our town. The opinion of Council carries some weight.

On several important local issues, Council has remained mute because the solution is beyond its powers. We need to take a higher view. This is our turf. We represent the people, and should always get behind them when they need help dealing with other levels of government.

first published in http://www.shaunoncouncil.ca/