Lakefront owners asking city to help fight Authority

A receeding bluff at Blue Point that’s disappearing into Lake Huron. Submitted Photo

Cathy Dobson

Frustrated lakeshore property owners are asking Sarnia to withhold partial payment to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority until they get help protecting eroding shorelines.

They also want Sarnia and Plympton-Wyoming to host a joint town hall meeting to air their grievances.

The two municipalities are home to about 1,000 Lake Huron property owners experiencing unprecedented land losses.

“People have lost 10 to 20 feet a year for the last three years but 2019 has been the worst,” said Kristen Rodrigues, spokesperson for a new citizens group called Shoreline Erosion Collective Coalition (SECC).

High water and waves are washing away banks, foundations are cracking, and some owners worry they could lose their homes, Rodrigues said.

Many want to install shoreline protection and are willing to pay for it themselves, but first need permits from the Conservation Authority. But instead of issuing permits, the Authority often asks for engineering reports and other documentation that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Then they turn down the application anyway,” said Rodrigues. “The Authority is ignoring ratepayers and just throwing more paperwork at the problem.”

Attempts to contact the Authority’s general manager and water resources director were unsuccessful at press time.

The Shoreline Erosion Collective represents about 60 taxpayers with waterfront between Sarnia and Grand Bend.

Rodrigues addresses Sarnia councillors on Dec. 9 and plans to urge them to withhold part of the conservation authority’s levy for 2020.

“If they care about their tax base, this is the first step they can take in working towards some accountability,” she said.

The group wants a town hall meeting with municipal and conservation authority officials, like one held recently between the Upper Thames Conservation Authority and Lake Erie waterfront owners.

“Other communities are understanding the urgency to create short- and long-term solutions. We need to be doing this too,” said Rodrigues.