September 22nd, 2014
Ms. Jewel Cunningham
Director Ontario Waterways Unit
Parks Canada Agency
Trent Severn Waterways
Wild Rice Harvesting on Pigeon Lake
Dear Ms. Cunningham
I am writing to you as the spokesperson of concerned residents which reside on the shores of Pigeon Lake, as well as boaters, fishermen, tourists and resort operators of the area. These concerns center on the substantial increase of wild rice in the area from Grenadier Island south to Omemee.
I wrote to Mr. Peter Kent in January 2012 expressing the concern of residents and received a reply (enclosed) stating that the Agency is working towards the development of a wild rice policy. I have searched the internet for this policy but have not been able to find one. Does it exist? This Policy was to provide direction for harvesting guidelines by First Nations and others.
A policy which provides enforceable guidelines is needed and the lack of these guidelines is one of the reason I am contacting you for help. The letter written to Mr Kent, as well as the pictures, provides you with a background of why we have started a Save Pigeon Lake Initiative.
The present condition of Pigeon Lake south of Grenadier Island continues to worsen each year due to the direct seeding of area lakes and the current method of mechanical harvesting in this area by Mr. James Whetung.
The following are concerns of property owners that need to be addressed and hopefully viable solutions found for all parties involved:
- James Whetung, on a radio interview admitted he has seeded area lakes. The reason given for seeding the lakes was that the mechanical harvesting method does not allow the rice to replenish itself naturally and therefore seeding is necessary. Unfortunately, the seeding was not restricted to the seeding of original rice fields and this has resulted in rice fields growing in areas where boating was once a pleasure.
- He admits during this interview that TSW authority would not issue a permit for mechanical harvesting, but he chose to ignore their position on this matter. The interview can be found on Terrainforma.ca…..Replanting Ontario’s wild rice.
- The use of the airboat powered by an engine and airplane propeller is creating a constant roar, which far exceeds an acceptable sound level and does not conform to township bylaws.
- Navigation of the waterway has been drastically restricted.
- Waterfront access to properties and beaches is being restricted.
- Lakefront property value is being affected.
- LACK OF CLARITY AS TO WHICH GOVERNMENT BODIES AND DEPARTMENTS HAVE AUTHORITY IN RESPECT TO THE HARVESTING OF WILD RICE IN THE TRENT SEVERN WATERWAY.
TSW advised us that the mechanical harvesting of rice was illegal and the only approved method was the traditional canoe and paddle method. They also stated that they do not issue permits and neither do the MNR for harvesting rice in the TSW. Based on these statements councilor Sherry Senis and councillor Donna Ballantyne for Selwyn met with the police services board and forwarded this information to the O.P.P. for support in enforcement of TSW policies, as well as, the enforcement of the township’s noise bylaw.
The O.P.P. contacted Mr. James Whetung and verified that Mr. Whetung does have a permit for harvesting rice issued by the M.N.R. They also stated to me that if this is a commercial permit they cannot enforce the noise bylaw. I have been advised by the O.P.P., as far as they are concerned there is nothing more they can do, as he has a permit to harvest, using his current method.. It should be noted, the permit issued by the MNR, is for water bodies under the Provincial jurisdiction, not Pigeon Lake. This fact was verified by the T.S.W. Why did the O.P.P. accept a permit from the MNR even though it did not apply to Pigeon Lake?
I can appreciate and respect the O.P.P position on this matter, as it is confusing as to which government department has jurisdiction.
The fact that the TSW authority is reluctant to request the O.P.P to advise Mr. Whetung that he does not have the right to harvest rice in Pigeon Lake is of great concern and does raise questions that need to be answered, some of which follow:
a. What bodies of government and departments have the authority to issue a permit to harvest rice in the T.S.W.?
b. What bodies of government and departments have the authority to provide a permit for seeding of the lakes in the TSW?
c. Is it permissible to seed the lake and create rice fields that impede the usage of waterfronts without consultation with homeowners whose property value will be affected?
d. Is it permissible to harvest the rice in such a manner that will spread the seed spillage to other parts of the lake?
e. Is it permissible to create an environment that is affecting the quality of life of area residents? e. Noise levels during harvesting and the encroachment of rice fields on the shorelines which need to be removed in order to get access to the main waterway.
F. IS IT RIGHT, THAT ONE INDIVIDUAL CAN INTENTIONALLY SEED LAKES FOR HIS OWN PERSONAL FINANCIAL GAIN WITHOUT TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THE AFFECT IT WILL HAVE ON THOUSANDS OF OTHERS?
Your assistance in obtaining answers to the above would be appreciated by all people affected. This would include property owners, tourists, resort operators, fishermen and recreational boaters.
It is our objective to be understanding of all views regarding this issue and develop solutions that will be acceptable to all concerned. The first step in achieving this objective is to stop mechanical harvesting and the seeding of the lakes by anyone until a policy is written providing enforceable guidelines. We would be pleased to work with a committee to assist in developing these guidelines.
Thank you, in advance, for your assistance. I look forward to receiving your reply.
- Letter to Mr. Kent
- Pictures sent to Mr. Kent.
- Reply from Mr. Kent.
- Email to councillor Sherry Senis (Selwyn) from councillor Donna Ballantyne re process to follow when filing a complaint.
- Email from Jason Postma stating the OPP position regarding this matter.
- Comments from Pigeon Lake residents.
- Pictures to illustrate the rapid growth of rice which is choking the waterways.
- Copy of flyer mailed to lakefront property owners.