Task force charts course on Silver Lake

Port Dover is prepared to do the heavy lifting when it comes to rehabilitating Silver Lake.This week, Norfolk council heard that volunteers in Port Dover are ready to pass the hat to restore the former mill pond as a community asset.Norfolk County would be expected to bear a share of the burden proportional to its interest in Silver Lake. However, pledges were given that most of the money will be found in the community.“We believe it would be unreasonable for Norfolk County taxpayers to pay for the project to revitalize Silver Lake,” Jim Dover, a spokesperson for the Port Dover Waterfront Preservation Association, told Norfolk council Tuesday.“Instead, federal and provincial governments, the private sector, and national as well as international conservation organizations should be the major funding contributors.“Given the county uses Silver Lake as a storm water retention pond and owns infrastructure and property adjacent to Silver Lake, it is reasonable to expect the county will want input and bear some costs in this revitalization project. We welcome the county’s participation for this reason.”The gallery at Governor Simcoe Square was filled with supporters of the Misner dam project on Tuesday. An estimated $2 million in dam repairs must be completed before sections of Silver Lake can be dredged and restored as a recreational and aesthetic asset in Port Dover.Both times council has discussed the dam project this month, the concern has arisen as to whether the community will be allowed to rehabilitate Silver Lake in the aftermath of a repair. Mayor Kristal Chopp says the prudent course of action is to get federal and provincial approval for dredging and other pond rehabilitation measures before proceeding with a repair.Resolving this Catch-22 is a primary mandate of a task force struck Tuesday night to move the project forward.The task force will consist of two members of the waterfront association, two members of the Port Dover Lions Club, a representative of the Port Dover Yacht Club, a representative of the commercial fishing industry, Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin and Charlotteville Coun. Chris Van Paassen.The Lions are represented because they have a large vested interest in Silver Lake as owners and managers of Silver Lake Park. At Tuesday’s meeting, president Paul Boulanger said the Lions are prepared to raise “millions” for improvements to the park and the adjoining mill pond.The yacht club is represented as a major stakeholder on the Lynn River downstream from Misner dam and Silver Lake.The yacht club supports the waterfront association’s plan to install a network of silt traps in Silver Lake to arrest the ongoing siltation of the river and the harbour at Port Dover, which is home to a fleet of fishing tugs and dozens of people who rely on them for employment.Tim Rodger, a spokesperson for the yacht club, said siltation downstream from Silver Lake has become a serious concern since structural problems with Misner dam were identified in 2009.Rodger said the siltation process has been allowed to run its course in Port Burwell and Port Stanley. The results for the boating community and the contribution it once made to these economies, Rodger said, were “a catastrophe.”“We could let the river silt in, but about 400 boats will be displaced,” Rodger warned. “Most of the other marinas are full and we’re already at capacity.”Many years ago, Jim Dover was associated with the Silver Lake Rowing Club. The club had dealings with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Long Point Region Conservation Authority in 2003 on issues related to dredging. The rowing club had a dredging permit in hand but didn’t act on it when problems with the dam were identified 10 years ago.“Just last week, I contacted DFO and was advised that there is no reason to believe the response to a similar proposal would be any different today and that – in fact – the approval process may be easier due to changes to regulatory legislation,” Dover told council.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com