By: Mike Anderson
The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) will postpone public consultations on the future of the Pefferlaw Dam, citing uncertainty over the dam’s ownership and the problem of scheduling public meetings due to COVID-19.
“There is currently no concrete timeframe for community engagement. Once legal ownership can be confirmed, LSRCA and the Town of Georgina will consider the most effective way to engage the public as the future of the dam is considered,” states an LSRCA webpage update, posted on September 22.
According to LSRCA, the province has not confirmed who legally owns the dam. So, it has asked the Town to do a “detailed search and review of their property records to confirm when they originally took ownership of the dam and if ownership was transferred to LSRCA.”
This was not welcome news for many Pefferlaw residents, who have been actively lobbying LSRCA and the Town to save their dam.
After all, LSRCA has already tabled a recommendation — at its July 24 Board of Directors’ meeting — to stop placing stop logs in the the dam after 2020 — although a vote on that recommendation was deferred until public consultations could be held.
Indeed, some residents believe the ownership issue is a ruse to delay a decision on the dam.
“The ownership of the dam was never an issue until there was $600,000 in repairs needed, then all of a sudden, you know, it’s a football, getting kicked back and forth from one jurisdiction to another,” said Karen Wolfe, a spokesperson for Friends of the Dam, a local lobby group.
“This is a piece of existing infrastructure in Georgina. It’s no different than the Ice Palace or a municipal road. It’s existing infrastructure that needs maintenance and repair. So I don’t understand how people can just walk away from this. I think there’s a responsibility on behalf of whoever owns it to look after it.”
Meanwhile, the pressure is building on LSRCA and the Town to move forward with a plan to keep the dam operating next spring.
An online petition started by Pefferlaw resident Stephanie Donaghy on change.org has now reached more than 3,500 names – more than Pefferlaw’s population of 3,000.
The Friends of the Dam committee has also blanketed Pefferlaw with “Save Our Dam” lawn-signs and posters; started a letter-writing campaign; and, recently, organized a paddle parade on the Pefferlaw River.
On September 13, nearly two dozen canoes and kayaks took part, paddling from the walking bridge to the dam and back.
“I think it’s really important that the community comes together and supports getting something done about the dam,” said Sonia Mitton, who’s canoe, equipped with a sail, won the top prize for best dressed.
“It’s good for the environment, and for all the ecology. Attention needs to be drawn to this issue rather than sitting back and doing nothing about it.”
“I think daily pressure on our politicians, on the conservation authority, on the Town is vital,” added Lee Dale, who paddled a canoe with Owen, his 16-year-old son.
“Anytime it goes to the back burner, it gets left off for potential funding. So it’s important to stay on it every single day and push for a resolution.”
York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson was also present to lend his support. Mr. Davidson, who’s lobbying behind the scenes to help secure federal funding for the dam, is frustrated that the issues surrounding the dam, including its ownership, haven’t been resolved.
“The northern end of York-Simcoe always seems to be forgotten. It was the same at Morning Glory public school. It used to get the worst computers when my son went there because no one cared about it. It was the end of the riding,” he said.
“The same holds true for this dam. If it were in downtown Richmond Hill, Thornhill, or Newmarket, we wouldn’t be even having this conversation. But because it’s in the northern end of the riding, that no one cares about, it gets forgotten.”