Beachers Association lodges formal complaint against municipality

To the Editor:

The Port Elgin Beachers’ Association has written to the Regional Environmental Planner/ Regional EA Coordinator of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for the
Southwestern Region regarding the proposed expansion of County Road 25.

Dear Mr. Newton,

Re. County Road 25 Project

The Port Elgin and Saugeen Beachers Organization has been actively engaged in the review of this local project of generational importance for two years. After careful, professional quality evaluation we are of the opinion that the public notice process and the proposed stormwater design entering Lake Huron over Gobles Grove Beach are deficient. Thus we are calling upon the Minister’s Approval Director to pause issuance of the Environmental Compliance Approval permit pending resolution of our concerns and hearing the public’s current input.

Our mandate is to engage in issues impacting the lifestyles of our 300 members’ including the properties they own and those they enjoy the use of. We represent the interests of both our seasonal and permanent residents who are estimated to contribute 15 – 20 % of our municipal tax revenue. Thus our members have an expectation their input will be directly sought out on all decisions impacting them and not just advertised in local news media so easily overlooked especially for our seasonal residents and travelling retirees.

Our group are intimately familiar with the  project’s first phase area especially where CR25 first meets Shipley Ave. then meets Saugeen Beach Rd. where the beach sewer outflow is proposed to be located. Personally I grew up two doors south and have lived the past 30 years two doors north. 

Three years ago the Beachers Parkette was built at the foot of CR 25 with the approval of the town having been discussed since the fall of 2013. The parkette is located wrapped around the area where the hydro pole closest to the lake is sited on the plan. Our parkette project was to both beautify a long ignored beach entry way and to anchor the Waterfront Trail at Gobles Grove Beach.

With our members help and money we landscaped it with shrubs, mulch, stone, flagpole, 2 cement sunset viewing benches, a bicycle rack (municipally provided) and a large custom made carved wooden sign saying Gobles Grove Beach done in municipally approved graphics as well as the Beachers logo. Cost on this sign alone was close to $3,000. The parkette has become a favourite public sunset watching venue.

The Beachers Organization are dismayed that if this well used public beach parkette was to be removed with this project it should have been identified early in the process and included in the Social Impacts section of the County’s Master PlanPublic input should have been sought and considered in the evaluation of alternatives and mitigation proposed. 

The fact that our association members made such a personal effort to create a signature project during the same time frame officials were advancing options for a beach storm outfall sewer not considering the parkette’s social value is disheartening.

It should also be noted that the construction design drawings do not even make reference to our parkette nor has its restoration been incorporated in the proposed work. Now we find out second hand that another change to the outflow location has been proposed and that the outflow is now being relocated into the Beachers’ Parkette

No communication of this change has been made to our 300 members.
The Beachers are, through this letter, hereby lodging a formal complaint to you for forwarding to the ECA Approvals Director for this oversight in the Master Plan and for allowing the proponent not to hold public hearings on the Gobles Grove Beach sewer outflow design, the impact on our parkette and how beach erosion will be mitigated when the stormwater discharges from the sewer. 

Firstly on this beach erosion subject they are proposing doing nothing (though the 2016 Master Plan indicates they need to mitigate the erosion) and allowing the water to be released uncontrolled and untreated onto a sand beach and now from a greater distance from the waters edge due to the recent change. Secondly this eco insensitive action is in direct violation of the recommendations of Saugeen Shores Waterfront Master Plan which call for not running untreated stormwater over our tourist attraction beaches and into our swimming areas which are also our drinking water sources. The Waterfront Master Plan, a highly valued 3 year council endorsed effort, was not referenced in the production of the County Master Plan as a study taken into consideration. Why?

For this reason alone the ECA should be delayed while alternate low impact storm water designs infiltrating water in underground beds near storage ponds are duly evaluated. Saugeen Shores has done for Southampton’s Island St. waterfront stormwater project now in the EA process. They did not recommend open pipe discharge over its beach and Gobles Grove Beach deserves the same.

We have serious concerns that the public may have been intentionally excluded from inputting on the design elements of this important part of the project work under the guise of the proponent (County) assigned A+ EA designation. Under it all decisions are automatically approved requiring no public input. 

The fact that this popular public parkette is completely ignored and now to be effectively removed is testament to this concern that no public input or hearings were sought by the proponent on the most eco sensitive and public part of the entire master plan – historic Gobles Grove Beach, a relic sand beach already under threat by human development having its sand dunes removed.

Further, and this goes to what the public was told was the reason an A+ designation was sought, we were told the reason for A+ was that this sub project including the open pipe beach outflow design was “ an extension of an existing drainage works”.  Having built the parkette we asked where are the existing drainage works? A spot on the plan was pointed to where a small culvert was said to exist on the corner of the intersection. On inspection the same day there was no culvert visible on the east side of the shore road where a rip rap wall meets the sandy shoulder of the road. Two days later the culvert was dug out and exposed. 

At a public meeting anyone using common sense would say its nonsense to say this major sewer works capable of 1500 litres per second beach discharge rates is an extension of the small buried culvert. 

Equally baffling to common sense is how the County hopes Shipley Creek will handle all major storm flows over 3 times the capacity of property owners’ culverts without damaging their properties. 

I’ve lived on the first creek property whose driveway across the creek has a 2 ft. culvert which effectively will act as a dam given the proposed stormwater creek volumes which requires a culvert much larger than the 4 ft beach pipe. Imagine telling Shipley Ave. property owners at a public meeting their tiny culverts are not being changed as new storm water volumes will be directed across their properties. That task now falls to the Beachers.

Further, if the public was openly told in a well publicized meeting (and not in the off-season like those held for the Master Plan), that all the proponent led beach outflow design decisions were “ automatically approved “ in an EA class A+ project there would be war. 

There are other commitments made in the Master Plan which have not been incorporated in the final design which have been sent for consideration in the ECA review.

Given the master plan deficiencies and issues identified in this press release we are asking the Approvals Director to pause the issuance of the ECA on the Shipley Creek and Gobles Grove Beach area portion of the CR 25 stormwater project.

Yours truly,

Greg Schmalz


Port Elgin and Saugeen Beachers 

“Serving Our Members Since 1922”