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MAY 28, 2004

Slow season start


Colder weather has kept the black flies and mosquitoes at bay a bit.  Something to be thankful for, although I can’t speak for way back in the bush. Fishing has been slower with the cooler spring and indecisive wind directions.

MAY 25, 2004

Rainy and cool, but no flooding

Temagami has not had the flooding seen downstream on the Temagami and Sturgeon rivers. There has been rain and it has been cool.

"We could use some warm weather," says Temagami Tim Gooderham. "The birch leaves have just begun to appear and are still pretty small."

Stephanie Aykroyd of Sunrise Adventures just returned from Cabin Falls on the Lady Evelyn River. "Water levels were not unusually high on the weekend, pretty normal spring levels."

Lake Temagami is near its recommended maximum summer level as the Cross Lake dam has been closed halfway to try and stem the flooding downstream in the Nipissing and French River watersheds.

Peter Healy of the Temagami Lakes Association says, "The gulls on the Ket-Chun-Eny shoal are standing on their toes — both gulls."

MAY 18, 2004

Appeal of Official Plan focuses on northern Lake Temagami

The cottagers' group appealing the Official Plan of Temagami is focusing on the plan's impact on northern Lake Temagami.

This part of the lake may be the least densely populated, largely due to the small number of islands. It is also one of the busiest canoeing areas of the lake due to its relatively remote character and the corridor it provides to the parks.

The proposed plan has divided the municipality into five neighbourhoods, in which different rules and zoning bylaws would apply, but has kept Lake Temagami as a single neighbourhood.

The group's appeal states that in doing so the plan "fails to recognize the current and historical differences that have existed" between the arms — North and Northwest — and the rest of the lake.

The Official Plan governs private property in the municipality, which incorporates Lake Temagami, and is administered by the town. The separate Temagami Land Use Plan governs Crown land and is administered by the province of Ontario.

The Official Plan has been divisive among the lake's property owners throughout its creation, despite a long history of community unity.

    DOCUMENT: Appeal submission 

  RELATED STORY:  Official plan challenged 

MAY 18, 2004

Mill to open in a month

The Temagami birch mill is expected to open officially on June 8, CBC Radio reports. The mill opening will mark the return of Temagami to the timber industry.

The Temagami Forest Products mill will also be the first major employer in Temagami in almost a decade. The last major employer was Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), which closed its office in 1996. The last major forest industry employer was the Milne sawmill, which closed in 1990.

The Temagami Forest Prodcuts mill expects to employ up to 60 people. It will start with production of rough lumber, but plans to add furniture components.

With no cutting rights of its own, it will purchase birch cut by other operators on their normal allocations. The supply will be split evenly between local logging operations and purchases on the open market.

Local logging should not increase as a result of the mill opening. Allocations are set to estimated sustainable levels and must normally be cut, even if the operators do not want a particular species growing in their allocation. The cutters supply timber to their own mills. In the case of surplus — species they do not use — they sell this to other mills.

There had been surplus birch in the past, as there had been no birch mills in the area. But new birch mills have been taking up the slack. The Temagami mill will get first rights to buy birch from cutters in the Temagami Forest Management Unit (map), and the rest of its demand will be met by competing on the open market.

  BACKGROUND:  Proposed mill

                         Progress slow

                         First Nation out of mill

                         Mill gets license

                         Construction starts

MAY 13, 2004

Municipality's Official Plan being challenged

The recently completed Official Plan for the Municipality of Temagami will be heading to the Ontario Municipal Board for a hearing.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing confirmed today that it had received a request for appeal of the ministry's April 8 decision to approve the controversial plan. The request came from The Lake Temagami Residents Group.

This group was formed by former members of the larger Temagami Lakes Association, the predominant property owners group, that were dissatisfied with the final plan. The Temagami Lakes Association supports the plan.

This leaves the plan in limbo until there is a ruling from the Board following a hearing. There had been a 20-day period in which an appeal could be lodged. The last day was yesterday, the day the appeal request was received.

The Official Plan governs private property in the municipality, which incorporates Lake Temagami — the separate Temagami Land Use Plan governs Crown land — has been six years in the making.

It has left bitterness in its wake as residents and property owners polarized between pro- and anti-development positions.

Municipal officials have long expressed concern that the legal fees for defending the plan against an appeal would be costly to the budget.

UPDATED: 10:00 P.M.


MAY 11, 2004

Ice free from space

This satellite image (the first reasonable one in weeks), taken yesterday, shows all lakes are ice free. Through a break in the clouds, a black Lake Temagami can be seen in the center. A brown, sandy Lake Timiskaming is in the top-right corner. Round, black Lake Wanapitei is in the lower-left corner. Highway 11 is the line threading north and south, just east of Lake Temagami.






Satellite image: ice break-up on Lake Temagami, 2004
Photo: ice break-up on Lake Temagami, 2004

MAY 6, 2004

Lake Temagami

95 per cent open

Lake Temagami, the last holdout with ice, is 95 per cent open. "There are still some stubborn ice floes out there drifting around," says central-lake resident Gerry Gooderham.

The ice went out on May 4 in 1952.

Ice floe at Ogama Island, Lake Temagami.



MAY 5, 2004

Anxious silence in the woods

There aren't any fellerbunchers and skidders grinding through portions of the Temagami forest. The silence is the result of an order by the Minister of Environment barring logging while a request for an environmental assessment is under review.

The order also stops road building and maintenance. Only personal firewood cutting and silvicultural activities are permitted.

Normally the minister takes 45 days to render a decision to deny or accept a request for an environmental assessment, or bump-up. That deadline has been exceeded. Earthroots requested the bump-up on the Temagami Forest Management Plan for 2004 to 2009 in late February. The plan was to go into effect on April 1.

The moratorium has had little effect on the forestry industry because this is normally a seasonal downtime when spring thaw leaves the ground too wet and soft for logging.

If it runs through the summer, the Eagle River bridge will not be repaired in the small summertime window permitted by fish-habitat regulations, and this will keep the Red Squirrel Road closed west of Sharp Rock for another year.

All of the companies that cut in this portion of Temagami (called Temagami Forest Management Unit) operate in many other units where they could potentially pick any slack should the moratorium continue.

The abnormally long delay on the bump-up decision is a sign that the minister is taking the request seriously. Probably the strongest argument Earthroots made for the bump-up was the failure of road access controls. MNR had been publicly taken to task by two independent reports issued last year that both fingered the road crisis. Independent reports, one by the forest auditor, are compelling.

Ontario historically has avoided granting environmental assessments on timber management plans. There has only been one in Ontario history — the Megisan Lake plan, and that assessment was a legacy of the Peterson government — but a number of maneuvers by NDP and Tory governments prevented it from coming to a full and open assessment. The next closest assessment on a plan was on the Red Squirrel logging road in 1986.

So the likelihood of a bump-up remains low. Should Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky grant an assessment, a decision in keeping with her Liberal predecessors, there should be little expectation that it will result in protection for the forests.

Tory governments between 1995 and 2003 gutted the Environmental Assessment Act and that included killing intervenor funding for citizens to make their cases.

Terry Graves, a local activist with Public Concern Temiskaming, has been involved in northern Ontario's most prominent assessments. He is cynical about the Act's ability to match the promise of its name.

"It was remade [by the Tories] for developers, not for meaningful input," said Graves. "When the largest landfill site in North America [the proposed Adams Mine landfill in Kirkland Lake] gets only 13 days of hearings, the Act is pointless." That assessment was approved in 1997.

The Liberals recently promised to restore the Act's teeth, but that would not likely happen before this assessment.

A bump-up is not a hopeless stab in the dark. It would make logging transparent — a rare event — and would present an opportunity for the public, if it takes advantage, of demanding some accountability — another rare event — in the forest.

  BACKGROUND:  It's the politics, stupid

                         Call for environmental assessment

                         Missing Red Squirrel bridge halts logging


Photo: ice break-up on Lake Temagami, 2004
Photo: one more snowfall on Lake Temagami, May 2004

MAY 3, 2004

Old Man Winter redux

It snowed last night, depositing six inches of the cold stuff on the ground. Obabika Lake's ice went out today but ice floes persist on Lake Temagami. (above: north from Ogama Island toward Bear Island).

"I was able to boat out along the shoreline late Saturday and back in on Sunday. There are still huge amounts of ice and north wind. If it switches to the south it will likely land-lock me again."

— Gerry Gooderham, Ogama Island



Photo: navigation buoy shows damage at break-up on Lake Temagami, 2004


  WEBSITE:  Drenth's

MAY 1, 2004

Just a tad more

Overcast weather has prevented us from getting a satellite photo that would give us the complete picture. Despite the winds of the last couple of days, there is still ice on the big lakes.

There is a large floe of soft, wet ice sitting in the center of Obabika Lake, Carollee Mathias reports this morning.

There is ice north of Garden Island on the North Arm today, Glen Toogood says. "Someone passed between Garden and Bear islands with a steel boat, breaking ice the day before yesterday."

"Still lots of ice on this side [north of Garden]. Leads have formed to the mainland on the west side, and north toward Stinking Islands."

Mike Drenth reports that yesterday the Northeast Arm of Lake Temagami was ice free from Portage Bay to the Axe Narrows.

On a boat drive he noticed a new navigation buoy. "An older buoy, possibly lost for a while, seems to have resurfaced, while another buoy (in photo) looked to be tipping it’s cap at us."

"These are a reminder that caution is needed in the opening days of travel, as buoys are often moved by the shifting ice."

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