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The Town of Windsor is in the process of updating regulations outlining the types of activity that can take place in the Mill Lakes Watershed Protected Water Area.
The regulations in place for the watershed area today came into effect in 1986.
About 25 people attended a public hearing in Windsor’s Town Hall on Jan. 6 to learn what changes would be made to ensure the regulations meet current standards outlined in the updated Environment Act.
The meeting was chaired by Coun. Dave Seeley, who also is the chairperson of the Mill Lakes Watershed Advisory Committee.
Don Beatty, the town’s director of public works, led the group in discussions comparing the 1986 regulations to the Source Water Protection Plan drafted in 2013.
Beatty said the bulk of the proposed changes involved updating the wording of the 1986 document, but the intent remains the same.
“It is the responsibility of the water utility, with the assistance of the watershed advisory committee, to ensure that the source water is protected,” he said.
The regulations outline the activities that are not permitted within the water supply area.
“Swimming, bathing, washing, boating and fishing is prohibited. However, the owners of the land in the watershed may fish, use rowboats or canoes on Mill Lake, and, in the winter, may use the snowmobiles as permitted on Mill Lake for the sole purpose of gaining access to the lands.”
Beatty explained that the current Environment Act places more responsibility on the water utility, which is the entity responsible for monitoring activity within the protected water area.
The provincial Department of Environment would be asked to consider a permit application if additional expertise, such as an environmental assessment, would be required to properly evaluate how the proposed activity would impact the watershed.
“If we don’t have the expertise, we would obtain it,” Beatty said.
When asked if the Town of Windsor has agreed to allow three turbines for the proposed Martock Ridge Community Wind Project to be built within the watershed area, Beatty said Windsor’s town council has decided to support the project based on the information that is available so far.
A development agreement must be reached with the Municipality of West Hants before any turbines can go up because the proposed location is owned by the Town of Windsor but located in Three Mile Plains.
“I think it is premature to say it is a done deal but it is moving along,” said Beatty.
Beatty noted that the watershed advisory committee recommended town council vote against allowing the Martock Ridge Community Wind Project to move forward, but council did not accept that recommendation.
With the wind project waiting on the necessary approvals, hydrocarbons, caused by unauthorized recreational activities and erosion, are viewed as two of the greatest threats within the watershed today.
“The biggest single risk is recreation and probably most of that would be unauthorized recreation within the watershed. It’s a dilemma that most watersheds face and it’s a hard one to police and it’s a hard one to control 100 per cent,” said Beatty.
“To date it has not presented us with huge issues but it always has the potential to do so.”
The Source Water Protection Plan outlines the process through which construction can take place within the watershed.
It is imperative that the restrictions in place in a protected watershed are followed, Beatty stressed.
“If something were to happen to the Mill Lakes source water supply, we don’t have an alternate source of water.”
He said West Hants would be in the same situation if the French Mill Brook could no longer feed the need for consumable water in the municipality.
“We have looked at it and a short-term solution to an emergency on either side of the Falmouth bridge could be an intermediate connection between the two systems,” Beatty said.
“A more permanent, useful connection would require some upgrading of those pipelines on both sides of the bridge to allow sufficient flow from one utility to the other.”
Beatty said it is important that everybody understands the watershed is “an asset that everyone in the area depends on.”
The draft regulations and Source Water Protection Plan can be viewed on the Town of Windsor’s website: www.town.windsor.ns.ca.