By Chris Pickup

The recent vicious storm that swept through Haldimand left significant damage to the shoreline in the Dunnville Lowbanks area, in addition to the usual erosion problems to the land that sits some feet above lake level.

Council chambers was packed to the rafters, Tuesday, as homeowners came to beg for financial help from the municipality. The structural damage to some homes, as land eroded with the wave action and breakwalls crumbled into the lake, forced eviction of some homeowners whose houses had become unsafe.

Chuck and Laurie Jansen made a presentation on behalf of all property owners, showing picture after picture of destroyed shoreline littered with breakwalls, decks and debris left from the storm. For comparison, they also showed pictures of the shoreline as it was years before, tranquil with beach vacationers.

“The financial and emotional impacts are huge,” Jansen noted. “We need long term affordable funding and homeowners need more time” (to fix things). He added other municipalities with lake shoreline are helping their residents. 

“We need municipal help managing erosion.” Jansen said. “Property owners should not have to apply separately for breakwalls.” Councillor Shirton agreed that it makes sense to work together rather than with individuals under separate permits.

Jansen cited higher lake water levels making erosion worse, and was worried for the health of the lake itself, contaminated with wood and metal debris and the remains of water wells. “Gull Island has almost disappeared under the water,” he said, showing yet another picture.

“This is not caused by us”, he said. “Comprehensive shoreline protection is needed before the land is gone. Material is lost every year. Erosion can no longer be ignored.”

He cited hazard mapping and study after study that begot nothing but more studies. “We seek immediate action other than more studies,” he said.

Councillor Corbett asked Jansen, what do you say to people who tell you that you built on the lake? Jansen retorted, “Who gave us permits? We don’t own the lake. The shoreline comes our way and we can’t stop it.”

Shirton wondered whether the eviction notices could be lifted, but staffer Craig Manley said the person at the county who has eviction authority has a statutory position reporting directly to the province.

In this particular case, he went with an engineer to see if he would be able to lift some of the notices, but there were some structural issues. “The buildings are unsafe. To lift these orders would not be prudent,” Manley said.

Mayor Hewitt asked, while It can be “a challenge to navigate conservation authorities”, could we possibly ask them to expedite the process of application for permits. With a bigger voice with a group, we might, was the answer.

Councillor Bartlett said Haldimand county has had significant problems for years. Building a breakwall requires the services of a marine engineer and there is a very limited number of marine engineers. “Wait times to have a breakwall designed can be as long as eighteen months,” he said.

While Hewitt said the county is going to need support from the province, CAO Don Boyle felt that should be delayed. “We need to pull together information and bring it back to council.

“There’s been frustration for over 100 years. It’s a province-wide issue and it’s not a quick fix. We need to provide letters of support and try to pull different parties together.”

County staff will put a report together and bring it back to council.