More Respect Needed for Shoreline Buffers

Lakeside properties are popular for many reasons, but if property owners don’t treat their shorelines with more respect, they may lose what they cherish. Shoreline disturbances along local lakes and rivers are increasing, and that is bad news.

A couple of years ago, the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth updated its Land Use By-Law. Clause 4.26.1 now says “In all zones where development is undertaken on a lot which borders a watercourse, an undisturbed buffer of 12 metres (40 ft) is required to be maintained between the high water mark on either side of a watercourse and any structure or developed portion of the lot.” The by-law gives details, but essentially, only minimum necessary development is allowed within 40 feet of the high-water mark.

This is an excellent first step. However, some people are not complying, and the situation is getting worse. Land is still being plowed to lake- and river shores, and roads and lawns are still being run along and down to the shores.

If you buy waterfront property, check with the Department of Environment and municipal authorities before you start building and making major changes to the land!

Here’s why lake and river shores should be left as wild as possible:

(1) Altering shorelines has unpredictable consequences, and can affect shorelines elsewhere, both in terms of erosion and sediment buildup. If you must put in a dock or other construction, make sure you don’t interfere with natural currents and water flows.
(2) The natural vegetation near and along lake and river shores holds soil in place, stabilizes water flow, shelters wildlife, absorbs nutrients, and shades the water, keeping it cool for fish, especially native species.
(3) So disturbed shorelines translate into increased risks of fewer fish and wildlife, muddy water, and/or green water, like that stuff on a few unfortunate lakes along the Carleton River.
Otherwise put, we all have the same obligation as mink farmers to be good environmental citizens.
(4) Green water doesn’t do much for property values. Neither do muddy conditions.

If you want an uninterrupted view of a lake or a beach, balance that against our obligation to maintain a healthy environment and to be a good neighbour. That includes your right to an unpolluted lake or river. If some of the trees between your cottage and the lake get in your way, (a) reset your esthetic priorities or (b) prune some of them. Don’t cut them. And leave the lakeside shrubbery alone

If you can use public or common access routes to get to a lake, use them, rather than constructing your own. If that doesn’t work, aim for minimum disturbance of your lakeshore.

The municipal by-law aside, staff in The Nova Scotia Department of Environment advise that “it is the responsibility of the land owner to stabilize any exposed soil that has the potential of releasing into a water course by runoff other means. It is a violation under the Environment Act to release a substance (silt/sediment included) into the environment that is causing or may cause an adverse effect.”

Landowners and contractors clearly need reminding about the by-law and related provincial regulations. We realize that public awareness is an important first step, but if that doesn’t work, more strict enforcement will be needed, for all involved.



How not to develop a lakeshore property:  Brand-new, Mink Lake, July, 2016.


Having a modest boat launch is fine, but this one on Brazil Lake is way too wide.


This development  on Brazil Lake paid token attention to the municipal by-law, but the buffer is much less than 40 feet!  Lots of opportunity for runoff into a very vulnerable lake.


A lawn and retaining wall (like these on Ellenwood) are great ways to increase runoff and pollution, and can  lead to unpredictable shoreline changes.  Keep your shoreline wild!  That’s beautiful, too.






Another lawn; another retaining wall, again on Ellenwood.  More opportunities for runoff, pollution, and shoreline erosion.  And the place for ATV’s is on trails, not shores!



Lots of sins on these properties, in terms of shoreline alterations and overly tamed shoreline, built on Ellenwood when folks didn’t know any better.

Now, we do, so there is no excuse.

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Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora

Carleton ACPF

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Carnage at Wilson’s Lake

The place for ATV’s and other motorized ground vehicles is on designated trails and other areas where they can be legally operated. Not wandering haphazardly through woods and fields, and most assuredly, not on beaches and shores, nor in marshes, swamps, and other wetlands.

Take a look at these pictures, which were brought to TREPA’s attention by enforcement staff from Nova Scotia Department of Environment. The wetland and shores around Wilsons Lake have been designated as critical habitat for Atlantic Coastal Plains flora. This assemblage includes many species at risk. The Tusket River basin has probably the most diverse collection of these species anywhere, and the area around Wilsons Lake is particularly rich in rare species.

Besides destroying plants and the animal life that depends on them, romping through wetlands in vehicles worsens erosion and in the worst cases, can pollute water supplies.

This kind of habitat destruction has to stop. Clause 12A of the Off-Highway Vehicles Act says that “No person shall operate an off-highway vehicle in or on a wetland, swamp, or marsh, a watercourse…, a sand dune, a coastal or highland barren, or a sensitive area…” Clause 12 B adds prohibitions for beaches, core habitat as defined by the Endangered Species Act, provincial park or park reserves, and protected sites or ecological sites designated pursuant to the Special Places Protection Act.

Romps of this sort in areas designated critical to endangered species are a federal offence under the Species at Risk Act.

Operators need to respect the laws governing the use of ATV; if they refuse to, their toys should be confiscated. Mandatory training for off-highway vehicle applicants clearly needs to give more attention to environmental responsibility. We encourage ATV associations to make operators, particularly non-members, aware of the laws governing use of off-road vehicles, and help us encourage all operators behave ethically, responsibly and respectfully.

Folks who don’t care about the damage their romps cause need to be aware of the various laws they are violating. If they are caught, they risk very heavy penalties. We are getting very tired of this wanton damage. It has to stop.


Panoramic aerial view of the carnage, taken July 21, 2016


The rompers drove into the lake, hereby committing another violation of the Environment Act


They didn’t  kill off all the endangered Plymouth gentian, but smashed down quite a few


This stand of insect-eating (and uncommon) pitcher plants would be healthier if ATV drivers weren’t illegally romping in their habitat.


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Student Summer Job Available

TREPA has received Approval to hire one student for nine weeks under the Service Canada Canada Summer Jobs program. Job will run from June 27 to August 26.
We are looking for a university or college student pursuing studies in an environmentally-relevant field with (1) valid regular driver’s licence and access to a car at any time; (2) familiarity with standard computer use (writing, e-mail, internet, data management), (3) experience with canoe handling and transport, and (4) proficiency at swimming.
Applications are limited to Canadian citizens, permanent residents or persons to whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, who were full-time student during the previous academic year, and who intend to return to school full-time for the next academic year and are between the ages of 15 and 30 at the start of the employment.

(1) Assistance in collecting water quality data from selected sites throughout the Tusket catchment in cooperation with Nova Scotia Environment;
(2) Assistance in maintaining and monitoring the C.R.K Allen Nature Reserve and newly-acquired lands on Great Pubnico Lake;
(3) Review environmental and health effects of wind farms and tidal power projects, and summarize in a report ;
(4) Review provincial legislation and strategies related to management of ground and surface water, and summarize the findings in a carefully referenced report, which recommends how TREPA can proceed in encouraging strengthened protection;
(5) Miscellaneous tasks for Carleton River Watershed Water Quality Steering committee and local environmental agencies;
(6) archiving of TREPA documents;
(7) Assistance in involving the public with recreational trails development under the Rails to Trails group;
(8) Assistance in implementing Clean Foundation’s Yarmouth Stormwater Program;
(9) preparation of a final report, which will include recommendations for how TREPA can involve the community more fully;
(10) Other duties as prescribed by the TREPA Board.

Resumes are to be attached to a letter of application, are to be in .rtf format, and are to list all references together with their contact information. Applications are to be sent by e-mail to, and are due by Wednesday, June 21 at 6 P.M. Only those selected for interview will be contacted.

— John Sollows

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Public workshop announced


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