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McKay Lake Watershed

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The McKay Lake Watershed – High Water Analysis 2015

Purpose of Analysis
To maintain the McKay Lake watershed at optimum natural levels, we have undertaken an analysis to map the watershed and identify areas of concern that are contributing to high water levels. The costs to reduce lake high water levels continue to rise and there needs to be a long-term solution developed to stabilize the lake level best suited to maintain a healthy environment.

Core Issue
McKay Lake appears to have risen 12” over the last many years.
High water levels are now making a negative impact in and around the lake.
There is more than one area contributing to high water within the McKay Lake watershed.

High water level impacts
1. The high water level directly affects approximately 46% of the lake owners, primarily on the west end of the lake. (i.e.: shoreline structures boathouses, cottages, crib docks, bunkies, potential road flooding)
2. The high water is also flooding trees and killing off shoreline buffer vegetation which can no longer filter the water properly
3. The outtake, McKay Stream is becoming overgrown with bulrushes and vegetation near the Rainbow Lane Bridge and this is threatening to choke out the water flow
4. McKay Stream has now expanded to a wetland area flooding all of the low lying areas north of the Rainbow Lane dam “B”. This is due to increased inflow and the dam restricting the outtake
5. Without proper flushing of the lake, the risk is real for raising e coli and high bacteria levels

I have prepared the attached document as a basic overview and general summary of McKay Lake’s water level fluctuations based on what information I have been able to gather from a multitude of various sources. The information included in this document is to the best of my knowledge accurate.

Understanding the McKay Lake Watershed and contributing factors to high water

McKay Lake Watershed Residence Map_Final

Satellite Imagery – McKay Lake Watershed MapMcKay-Lake-Watershed-Satellite-Map_Final_v1

  1. Intake (Beaver dam A and Fraserburg Road storm drain) – The release of back waters from North of the Fraserburg Road into the road culvert, between 2136 and 2140 Fraserburg Road.
  • When Fraserburg Road was reconstructed, a large storm drain was placed under the road (where the permanent homes are between 2136 and 2140)
  • The Town of Bracebridge controls the beaver dam “A” (really large this year 8′) north of the Fraserburg Road and they trap the beavers and remove the dam when required, to drain the back lake into McKay Lake. This was done last October
  1. Intake (Purbrook and Fraserburg Road storm drains) Wetlands West of Rainbow Lane
  • When Fraserburg Road was reconstructed, two large storm drains were placed under Purbrook and Fraserburg Roads
  • These culverts drain any excess water away from Purbrook and Fraserburg Roads and toward McKay Stream
  • McKay Stream has now expanded to a wetland in the low lying areas due to this added intake of water. When the wetlands back up so does McKay Lake
  1. Outtake (Rainbow Lane Beaver dam B 200’ West of Rainbow Lane) The McKay Lake stream is restricted by beaver dam “B” approximately 200’ west of Rainbow Lane.
  • This dam has been controlled by trapping since 1960
  • There has been an increase of water intake into this stream from the new roadway storm drains at Purbrook and Fraserburg Roads creating a wetland in the low lying areas
  1. Outtake (Hoffmann Lane grate cleanout and culvert)
  • Volunteers remove any debris from the grates in front of the culvert to ensure beavers are kept out and that it does not get backed up. Do not know who is maintaining currently.  We need to ensure that someone is keeping this clear annually
  • There was a new culvert installed under Hoffmann Lane, approximately 5 years ago
  • The culverts (2) had to be replaced due to damage incurred from heavy equipment required for new building construction
  • The single new culvert replaced 2 crushed culverts (one on top of the other – like a figure 8) at the building property owner’s expense
  • The new culvert (1) was raised 6″ from the stream bed and previous location
  • 2 culverts (one on top of the other) were converted to one, and the new culvert was reduced in size
  • Historically, the top culvert would catch any overflow, which would prevent the back up of water and flooding of Hoffmann Lane
  • With only 1 culvert installed, once the water reaches over the first culvert there is no drainage opportunity resulting in a backup of the watershed
  • The culvert may need to be replaced with something larger and deeper but an evaluation in conjunction with the Town of Bracebridge should be conducted.
  • Require the private property owner’s permission
  1. Outtake (Hoffmann Lane Beaver dam “B1”)
  • The beavers have built a beaver dam south of the Hoffmann Lane culvert between Hoffmann Lane and Staunton Road, in the McKay Stream
  • The dam is not maintained and is contributing to a rise in water levels
  1. Outtake (Staunton Road Beaver dam C) the Town has also controlled the removal of the dam “C” south of Staunton Rd to ensure that this municipal road is not flooded.
  • The Town controls/contributes to both the intake and the outtake flow of the McKay Lake watershed
  • All of these Town controlled dam sites involve trapping of the beaver prior to removal of the dams…the town does this independently of the MNR and absorbs all costs involved to protect municipal roadways

 McKay Lake Watershed areas of Concern:

 The culverts on Purbrook and Fraserburg Roads contribute to a significant intake of water to the McKay Lake watershed

  1. Other than these sites, the McKay Lake watershed has several areas of concern that should be addressed;
    • Rainbow Lane beaver dam “B” 200’ past Rainbow Lane
    • Hoffmann Lane culvert
    • Hoffmann Lane beaver dam “B1”
    • Notes:
      1. Land access to the 3 areas mentioned above will require permission from private property owners
      2. Listed in order of watershed flow

The Solutions: 

From my research….there are viable solutions, in the 4 listed below to address the Rainbow Lane beaver dam “B” and the Hoffmann Lane beaver dam “B1” issues…

  1. Trapping and breaking apart the dam (which has been ongoing since 1960 at Rainbow Lane) or…
  2. Installation of beaver baffles through beaver dams “B” and “B1”
  3. Relocating of beavers: is not an option as per the MNR because they are very territorial and they will be killed in a new location
  4. Just breaking down the dam: is also not an option because the beavers return nightly to rebuild 

In Summary:

NOTE: it is important to communicate that the beavers are not a new situation…removing the beavers continues to increase in cost. The Fraserburg/Purbrook inflow into the lake and the new culvert and beaver dam at Hoffmann Lane are all relatively new situations.

  1. Option 1: Trapping and breaking apart the dam
    • This has been done by the town and privately addressed since 1960
    • The trappers, hired by the Town of Bracebridge used to come in and remove the beavers and the trappers would sell the pelts to supplement their costs and time involved
    • Since some of the trapping programs have beencancelled, the maintenance and costs associated now fall upon the private property owners. With the decline in the need for pelts, the cost now involved in trapping continues to rise annually
    • There is also the physical labour of breaking down the dams after the beavers have been removed, which has been done historically by volunteers
    • Educating the McKay Lake Cottagers Association membership of these issues is imperative and a long term solution needs to be developed
  1. Option 2: Beaver Baffle Installation ( Rainbow Lane dam B and Hoffmann Lane dam “B1” )

Rainbow Lane Beaver dam B

  • The water coming into the dam is approx. 18″ deep and awatercourse 8-10′ wide
  • The damming spreads the entire width of the wetland currently with the main dam being in the middle of the outtake stream
  • Beaver baffles need to reside under the water approx. 20′ upstream and 20′ downstream with cages on either end to prevent beaver access
  • These are custom-made, based on the requirements of the site
  • One section of piping may  not provide enough water flow to meet the intake, therefore a series of pipes lashed together or something fabricated that is approx. 10′ wide but shallow (meeting the 18″ depth) will be required to meet the water flow
  • This apparatus will need to be submerged under the water and possibly partially buried in the stream bed
  • Work needs to commence to establish a drawing and cost to fabricate this baffle, please see the drawings below of the Clemson beaver baffle that can be fabricated for approximately $350 US
  • Installation should be scheduled for August, 2015 with a volunteer team based on the private property owner’s approval to proceed
  • The only other option is to continue to trap and break down the dam

Hoffmann Lane Beaver dam B1

  • Inspection has to occur to determine if a beaver baffle will work in this location
  • If so, follow same procedure as Rainbow Lane dam “B” beaver baffle
  • If not, alternative solutions to be discussed at that time

 Action Plan:

  1. Meet with the Town of Bracebridge to forge discussions regarding;
    • Process, annual timelines and impact on McKay Lake of removing dams (dam “A” and dam “C”) on the intake and outtake of the watershed
    • Gain guidance and assistance with the issues stated above regarding the dam “B”, the Hoffmann Lane culvert and Hoffmann Lane beaver dam “B1”
      • Is the Town willing to trap the dam “B” and “B1” beavers at the same time the other 2 McKay Lake locations are being addressed?
      • Is there record on file regarding the culvert replacement on Hoffmann Lane? Is there a work order to conduct this work or the parameters for the install?  Can this be inspected and repaired?
      • Ultimate goal; work together with the Town of Bracebridge to gain a mutually agreeable plan of communication and action
  1. Inspect and photograph:
    • Beaver dam “A” at Fraserburg Road
    • Culverts at Fraserburg Road and Purbrook Road intersection
    • Culvert between 2136 and 2140 Fraserburg Road
    • Rainbow Lane wetlands
    • Rainbow Lane beaver dam “B”
    • Hoffmann Lane culvert
    • Hoffmann Lane beaver dam “B1”
    • Staunton Road beaver dam “C”
  2. Develop a long-term solution for dealing with the beavers through:
    • Installing beaver baffles at the Rainbow Lane beaver dam “B” and Hoffmann Lane beaver dam “B1”
    • Initial fabrication/installation costs and timeline to be developed
    • See Appendix A ‘Clemson Beaver Pond leveler.pdf’
    • Gain private property owner approval
  3. Further investigate the Hoffmann Lane culvert and determine the following:
    • Process, volunteers and annual schedule of grate clean-outs
    • How does the current culvert impact the water levels and determine an action plan to address
  1. McKay Lake Stream evaluation:
  • Determine the best action plan for organizing a vegetation cleanup and continued maintenance
  • Plan on working with the property owner
  • Engage environmental university students to conduct a stream study
  1. Educate the McKay Lake Cottagers’ Association members regarding the Muskoka Watershed report card including:
  • McKay Lake watershed
  • water quality
  • shoreline maintenance
  • fisheries
  • steam management
  • species at risk, invasive species
  • beaver management (trapping and baffles)
  • “How to Live in Cottage Country…What you Need to Know” publication
  1. Advising Association directors and membership of the causes of the high lake water levels and the associated costs for the various remedial options: i.e.: beaver trapping, dismantling of the beaver dam, and installation of beaver baffles.
  2. Develop a robust website to communicate all of the above.

McKay Watershed direction of flow<a