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Sand Loss at Sauble Beach - pebbles appearing

posted Jul 26, 2018, 7:56 AM by FSB Information

Friends' group urges South Bruce Peninsula to take action to stop loss of sand at Sauble 

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Thursday, July 5, 2018 5:37:09 EDT PM

This photo, supplied by Friends of Sauble Beach, shows the pebbles that now line the shoreline at the popular Lake Huron beach.

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Friends of Sauble Beach is calling on South Bruce Peninsula to take immediate action to help stop what it calls an alarming loss of sand on the popular Lake Huron beach.

The volunteer group has written to town officials, urging them to seek permission from the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry to reinstall protective fencing – removed by the municipality last fall – in strategic locations to help prevent sand from blowing off the beach and onto Lakeshore Boulevard.

“We want to save the beach,” group spokesman John Strachan said in an interview.

“You walk along the beach and you see all the gravel coming up. That was never here until they started grooming. And this is what's underneath the sand that we're losing.”

South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson said while she's also concerned about the loss of sand, the town cannot reinstall the sand fencing at this time because its hands are tied by the MNRF.

“When we removed that sand fencing, our plan was to replace it as soon as possible with the idea that we would go back to the original plan, which was to remove it every couple of years, feather the sand back down onto the beach and then replant that fence,” she said Thursday.

“But the MNRF slapped us with a stop order and litigation so we really had no choice but to grind to a halt.”

Jackson said the pebbles along the shoreline are not a sign of over-grooming or loss of sand, as the Friends' group claims. Instead, they are the result of a deposit of stones between sandbars at the south end of the beach that have washed ashore, she said.

The Friends of Sauble Beach, which formed in 2000, purchased and installed fencing west of the dunes in 2007 in areas where sand had historically blown up and over the dunes or off the beach via, for example, the paths to Lakeshore Boulevard.

Jackson said the fencing had not been replaced in years and parts of it had become a hazard to beach-goers.

Before the town could reinstall new fencing this spring, Jackson said the MNRF charged the town under the Endangered Species Act in connection to its beach maintenance work in April 2017.

That's when the town had used heavy equipment to cultivate the town-owned beach between the water's edge and 30 feet west of the dunes, as per its beach maintenance policy. Jackson said north Sauble Beach had become overgrown with weeds, roots and other vegetation, so the work was necessary.

The charge alleged the town had violated the section of the act that prohibits people from damaging or destroying the habitat of an endangered or threatened species. The piping plover was mentioned in the charge.

The ministry also issued a stop order against any further town-sanctioned beach maintenance this spring “to ensure ongoing protection of the piping plover,” which has been nesting annually at Sauble since 2007.

The town received a summons to appear in court June 23.

Jackson said the MNRF successfully requested a delay in proceeding with their case.

Recently, Jackson said the MNRF agreed, in writing, to an amendment to the stop order that allows the town to groom the beach between 4th and 10th streets, which is more than 500 metres away from any plover nests. The town did that work ahead of the Canada Day long weekend.

Jackson said South Bruce Peninsula will not consider replacing the sand fences until the town and MNRF agree to a comprehensive beach management plan, which includes rules for beach raking and the fencing.

She said the town wants to ensure, before it reinstalls the fencing, that the MNRF will no longer consider the sand that accumulates on the fences as “foredunes.”

The classification would prohibit the town from grooming the sand within 30 feet of the fences, she said, which would mean significant sections of beach could not be maintained.

“Until we get this ironed out with the MNRF and come to a very clear understanding that the sand captured by the sand fencing will never be considered a foredune, we will have to wait on the installation of that fencing,” she said.

“Hopefully we can come to a beach management agreement very soon. It's something we've been after for quite some time.”

But Strachan said it could take months or possibly years for the two sides to agree to a beach management plan.

The group is concerned about how much sand will be lost in the meantime.

It wants the town to ask the MNRF to approve another amendment to its stop order to allow the fencing to be reinstalled.

Strachan said strong northwest winds this winter and spring, along with the town's grooming work, destruction of foredunes and lack of protective fencing has resulted in large amounts of sand blowing off the beach, over the dunes and onto Lakeshore Boulevard and adjoining properties.

“Everyday it seems to be getting worse. There's more of the gravel,” he said.

The gravel used to be under the sand, he said, but is now visible.

“If we can get the fencing up, then at least we can stem it,” he said, referring to the loss of sand.

The Friends' group has contacted MNRF officials and submitted sand-fencing plans, he said, which were developed by a group of beach scientists.

It believes the ministry will not oppose a town request to re-fence the beach, he said.

“Sand fencing, installed immediately, will help to save our beautiful sandy beach and keep it from turning into a pebble and rock beach, much the same as many other Lake Huron shorelines,” says the group's letter to the town.

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