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Complaint halts beach bulldozer work at Sauble

posted Aug 24, 2017, 8:09 PM by FSB Information   [ updated Aug 24, 2017, 8:16 PM ]

Complaint halts beach bulldozer work at Sauble

By Scott Dunn, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Thursday, August 24, 2017 8:11:13 EDT PM

Sauble Beach after the town used a bulldozer to remove thick vegetation at north end of beach. Photo was shared by South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson on her Facebook page Thursday. (Used with permission)

Sauble Beach after the town used a bulldozer to remove thick vegetation at north end of beach. Photo was shared by South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson on her Facebook page Thursday. (Used with permission)

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SAUBLE BEACH - Mayor Janice Jackson posted pictures on her Facebook page Thursday which show the dramatic difference a bulldozer made at clearing the north end of Sauble Beach of vegetation Wednesday.

But the work to remove bushes and other thick vegetation from the north end of the beach to 6th Street attracted the concern of members of the Friends of Sauble Beach.

At day's end Wednesday, Grey Sauble Conservation Authority informed the town it needed a permit to do the work and asked for work to halt until a meeting could be arranged Monday with a conservation authority official who is away this week, Jackson said.

“But we've never taken out a permit on the beach, ever,” the mayor said in an interview Thursday. Indeed the vegetation hasn't been so thick before either, she said.

“We've never had to do this kind of work. What we've always done is tilled the beach and raked the beach. But the condition of the beach today is far beyond simply tilling,” Jackson said.

“It's the first time we went in with a bulldozer and we took out all of the bushes and the invasive weeds. We took everything out of the north end. And I think that's what alarmed people. Because it was a large piece of equipment.”

Conservation authority spokeswoman Krista McKee said the conservation authority learned of the work through a private Facebook post by an individual and by contact from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

A Friends of Sauble Beach member reported the bulldozer work, said John Strachan, the volunteer organization's director of dune management. He would have reported it himself had the member not done so because in his view, the mayor's gone too far, he said in an interview.

“She tore all the dunes down around at the walkway at Sauble Falls Road,” Strachan said. “Plus she was digging into the foredunes. When you dig away the foredunes (small dunes closer to the middle of the beach), all the sand blows up into the big, tall dune, and it goes off into the cottages as well.”

Strachan said the area of work was levelled by the bulldozer and was marked out to include an area which included “in spots, part of the full dune.”

“This is all a non-renewable resource. When that sand blows away, there's no more sand coming,” Strachan said. He's happy the conservation authority stepped in.

Jackson said the town shared with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on Aug. 18 its plans to “rehabilitate” the beach to within about nine metres (30 feet) of the most easterly dunes, a distance that is contained in the town's beach maintenance policies. She said the ministry approved them.

MNRF confirmed Wednesday the ministry was advised of the town's planned beach maintenance and MNRF “provided advice on how their beach maintenance activities can comply with the ESA (Endangered Species Act).” The emailed response late in the day to The Sun Times didn't address whether the ministry has concerns in light of the work so far. It said the town and MNRF continue to work together.

Wednesday was the first day of work on the north beach. The bulldozer removed vegetation from north of 11th Street by the tennis courts to almost the northern tip of the beach at Grove's Point by day's end, Jackson said. She estimated 23 to 30.5 meters (75 to 100 feet) of beach was “lost to vegetation” before reclamation work began.

Plans call for the bulldozer to return to the beach to finish removing vegetation towards the tip of the beach, and also from the dunes to the middle section of the beach. The remaining work should take two more days, Jackson said.

She also said the municipality used a disc-bladed implement to cut into the sand to remove vegetation between 5th and 6th streets last week, on a privately owned section of beach with the owner's permission.

There is less vegetation on the beach the father south you go and so there remain some areas south from 6th to around 3rd or 4th street which need cleaning, though without the bulldozer, she said.

Jackson said she was “surprised and disappointed that they (conservation authority) are even looking permit fees to clean our own beach,” which said would cost $1,200. “I find that bizarre. I mean we pay them $184,000 a year as a mandatory fee.”

Jackson said she has no idea what conditions the permit would set out.

But McKee at the conservation authority said it has good relationships with its member municipalities and it never charges permit fees to them.

The permit is required because regulations dictate that shoreline work which involves moving more than 10 cubic metres of sand must be be reviewed first, McKee said.

She confirmed the conservation authority asked the municipality to stop but added it has no authority to force it to. She said she looks forward to town and conservation authority staff working together to move forward.

Cleaning the beach is controversial for some, particularly given the endangered plover has chosen to call Sauble Beach home, where it returned in 2007 after a 30-year absence.

The beach was “disced” in April, including in the areas of heavy vegetation at the northern tip, Jackson said. Cleaning there, Jackson suggested, is what prompted the first plovers to nest that far north on the beach in seven or eight years. Nests were established down to the volleyball courts farther south.

But heavy rains – there were 19 straight days of rain at the beach this summer, Jackson said – led to vegetation growing back vigourously.

The subsequent cleaning Wednesday took place after the last plovers left.