‘Docktalk’ program offered on Rainy Lake

FORT FRANCES—“Docktalk,” a program aimed at helping shoreline property owners become environmental stewards, was presented Monday afternoon by co-ordinator Kelli Saunders at the cottage of Paul and Kay Larsen on Rainy Lake.
The workshop was made possible by the Rainy Lake Conservancy and several members of its board were on hand.
And although the program is running for a second year, it is being offered in the Rainy Lake area for the first time.
“There’s a growing sense of ‘paradise lost,’” Saunders explained, citing more neighbours, less habitat, less space, and poor water quality along the lakeshore.
“Can you, as an individual, change anything?” she asked. “The answer is yes—collectively we can make a difference.”
Saunders noted the “Docktalk” program actively gets property owners involved by connecting them to the local resources and experts in the community who can help them.
It also includes one-on-one site visits for those who would like to evaluate their environmental practices.
“We can make it very specific to your property and make suggestions,” said Charlie Madden, a co-ordinator who conducts the site visits.
Saunders explained there are five issues “Docktalk” focuses on:
•on-site water and wastewater systems;
•shoreline naturalization and appropriate landscaping;
•control of invasive species;
•reducing toxins in the environment; and
•habitat enhancement.
“These are the foundation themes when thinking about environmental stewardship,” she remarked.
Saunders indicated shoreline property owners should develop good septic practices because if problems arise, they could have serious impacts—such as affecting water quality through contamination.
She added this can be avoided if water is conserved in order to allow it the time it needs to be treated in the tank; if the septic tank is inspected every three-five years; and if it is located at least 15 metres from the shoreline.
“It is also very important to choose the right products to use,” Saunders stressed, noting the input of phosphorus should be kept to a minimum.
“Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free cleaners,” she said.
Saunders also said the benefits of maintaining a natural shoreline include improved water quality, protection from erosion, and less nuisance algae and aquatic plants.
And when it comes to invasive species, she warned you can’t eliminate them once they have spread.
“They are here to stay,” Saunders said. “But ‘Docktalk’ helps to identify the invasive species and teaches you how to slow the spreading and to be aware of them.”
The spiny water flea, for instance, was confirmed in the Minnesota waters of Rainy Lake earlier this summer.
People can drain water from their boats and outdoor articles, as well as inspect and wash this equipment, to alleviate the spread of invasive species to the lake.
Both Madden and Saunders also stressed the importance of reducing toxins in the environment. To do this, harmful fertilizers and pesticides should not be used because when it rains, these pollutants can be washed into lakes with run-off.
They added wildlife habitat can be enhanced by maintaining a natural shoreline, planning for wildlife, and cleaning up polluted areas.
Last year, Madden, along with fellow co-ordinator Jessica Beatty, visited 100 property owners in the Lake of the Woods area to talk to them about their practices.
And while the service is free and confidential, it does not target those who are not being environmentally aware around the lake. Instead, “Docktalk” is an educational tool, providing information and answers.
“A lot of people are already doing a lot, but if there are one or two little things someone can learn, then it makes the program all worth while,” Madden remarked.
About 10 visits were scheduled for property owners on Rainy Lake.
The program is not expected to have the funds to run again next year, but Saunders said they will try to keep it going.
Rainy Lake Conservancy members noted they hope they can continue to provide this environmental information to other lake property owners in the area.
“Docktalk,” which is supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is a joint venture between Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association and the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations.
(Fort Frances Times)