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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