Wayward cast-off docks have become the bergy bits of the lake.

While different in more ways than one from the ocean-going behemoth icebergs and their wayward bits, old freely-floating docks seem to be common certain time of the year.

And more of them have become problems for waterfront dwellers.

Minden Hills residents Rick Thurston and Wendy Coulson petitioned township council to forgive them the landfill dumping fees for one such piece of a dock they removed from the middle of Horseshoe Lake. They included photos of the flotsam with their letter.

“We attempted to determine where it came from and asked through the lake community for the original owner to take responsibility for it but, to this point, we have been unsuccessful,” their letter stated.

The couple were going to tear the bit of errant dock apart to bring it to the Scotchline landfill but were wary of the costing them hundreds of dollars.

“With that in mind, we are respectfully requesting your support to waive the landfill fee in this case so our best intentions to do the right thing do not turn into an expensive decision,” they wrote.

Mike Timmins, the township’s director of public works, said that, based on the photos provided with the letter, the dock’s wood would likely be considered construction material once it’s torn apart. He said the township would likely be forgiving “a couple hundred bucks” by waiving the disposal fee.

“I can certainly make that happen if that’s council direction,” he said.

In the end, council voted against waiving the landfill fees. The reluctance was borne of a fear to set a precedent that would enable everybody to simple shove an old dock off onto the lake.

Mayor Bob Carter said unmoored docks floating freely is a problem that’s grown every year.

“I know the lake I’m on, we’ve had that situation where every spring there are docks that manage to take off from people’s home and, in some cases, people don’t miss them and never go looking for them,” he said.

In other cases, people who replace their docks simply cut the older one loose and give it a shove, sending it floating to whatever will happen and wherever it will end up.

In both instances, Carter said the cast-off docks often become other people’s problems.

Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell said council should waive the fee and send thank-you letters to Thurston and Coulson for their work.

“It would cost the township a lot more than $200 by the time we paid for staffing and everything,” she said. “If they’re willing to do it, I’m comfortable waiving the fee.”

Councillor Tammy McKelvey cautioned that the fee-forgiveness could prove to be a “slippery slope” for the township.

“Everybody is going to make sure that they do let their docks go,” she said. “In a lot of townships, the lake associations take on the financial burden.

“I just think that there’s going to be hundreds of these if we start waiving landfill tipping fees. Some of that material could be used for a nice little bonfire sitting by the lake.”

“Assuming we don’t have a fire ban,” Carter said.

“Obviously, yes,” McKelvey said.

Coun. Pam Sayne broached the possibility that such incidents could be producer responsibility.

“We talk about that for plastic garbage bags,” she said. “What about for products like this?”

She said she’s preparing to dispose of an old dock. She’s made arrangements for somebody to do the work and properly dispose of the refuse from it.

“And I’ll be paying for that,” Sayne said. “To think that people could just let their docks that are worn run wild and then eventually somebody else will take care of it, that’s an issue.”

This is a growing issue and there are many aged docks at many waterfronts. Some of them are rightfully being claimed, while others are not, Sayne said.

Coun. Bob Sisson suggested the respective lake associations should be handling such incidents.

“What’s to say people can’t just push their docks out, like’s been said,” he said. “We’re setting a precedent if we waive it.”

Carter said lake associations have no jurisdiction to enforce such rule. They can’t even compel waterfront property owners to join an association.

Waterfront properties being offered as short-term rentals also complicates the issue, he said.

“It’s a nightmare, but the whole idea of licensing docks come into play here,” the mayor said. “And then the idea of producer responsibility or owner responsibility for this is something that has to be determined.”

Coun. Ivan Ingram said the piece of dock Thurston and Coulson plucked from Horseshoe Lake was clearly cast away by a property owner.

“This is clearly one that has been let go just to avoid the charges,” Ingram said, and questioned if the problem is the township’s responsibility. As if perhaps responsibility should be pushed up the chain to the provincial or even federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“From my perspective, I think we deal with this in the short-term and then figure out what our longer-term solution is,” Carter said. “I don’t have the best solution.”


By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 04, 2023 at 08:23

This item reprinted with permission from   Minden Times   Minden, Ontario

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