What is a Causation Study?
A Causation Study is a way to determine why the water quality of a lake may be vulnerable based on key criteria. Impacts to water quality may be due to natural processes or human activities, and determining which causes are affecting water quality is an essential step in protecting Muskoka’s lakes.
What is the purpose of the Causation Study Pilot Project for Peninsula Lake?
The purpose of the Causation Study Pilot Project is two-fold. First, the pilot project will seek to understand relative contributors to the water quality indicator flagged for Peninsula Lake, which is an occurrence of a blue-green algae bloom in 2017. Second, the pilot project will aim to establish a framework (e.g. science, approach and process) for future causation studies on other vulnerable lakes in Muskoka.
Why is the District of Muskoka undertaking a Causation Study Pilot Project now?
The District of Muskoka’s Official Plan Amendment 47 (OPA 47) was approved by the Province on June 28, 2019 and updated the District’s Lake System Health policies. A key component of these new policies involves the initiation of causation studies by the District for lakes considered to be vulnerable from a recreational water quality perspective.
How was Peninsula Lake chosen for the Causation Study Pilot Project?
Currently there are nine lakes in Muskoka considered vulnerable based on one or more water quality indicators.
Peninsula Lake experienced a blue-green algae bloom in 2017, it has the second highest development potential of the nine lakes identified as vulnerable by District staff, there has been modest investment in water quality initiatives to date, and the lake association is highly engaged. Additionally, Peninsula Lake is large and located in two different municipalities (e.g. Town of Huntsville and Township of Lake of Bays), which means it has the potential to impact a wide variety of stakeholders. Peninsula Lake is also connected to Fairy Lake, which is the location of the District of Muskoka drinking water intake for the Town of Huntsville.
After considering various data points and other lake-specific factors listed above, Muskoka District Council selected Peninsula Lake to be the focus of the Causation Study Pilot Project.
Who is conducting the Causation Study Pilot Project on Peninsula Lake and when will the study be finished?
The District of Muskoka posted a Request for Proposal in August 2019, seeking a consultant to undertake a Causation Study Pilot Project on Peninsula Lake.
After a thorough evaluation of all submissions by an internal staff team, Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd. was selected to undertake the District’s Causation Study Pilot Project.
The study is anticipated to be complete in early 2020, after which the consultant will present findings and make recommendation to District Council.
Will shoreline residents and other interested residents in Muskoka have the opportunity to provide input or feedback into this pilot project?
Engagement with stakeholders was outlined as a key requirement of the Causation Study Pilot Project. This is because the District of Muskoka recognizes that shoreline residents, in particular, have relevant local knowledge that will help inform an overall causation study approach and be valuable in developing a Terms of Reference for the Peninsula Lake Causation Study Pilot Project.
Shoreline residents, and others, are encouraged to complete the survey included on this Engage Muskoka platform. Additionally, a stakeholder meeting (open to the public) will be held at the Town of Huntsville Council Chambers on November 8, 2019 from 2 pm to 4 pm. At this public meeting Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd. will provide an overview of the study and seek feedback from the public.
What other lakes in Muskoka are scheduled for Causation Studies?
Upon completion of the Causation Study Pilot Project on Peninsula Lake, District of Muskoka staff have recommended that, pending funding and other resources, causation studies be undertaken for other vulnerable lakes, specifically Stewart Lake, Leonard Lake and Three Mile Lake over the next two years.