Lower water levels in North Bay area not cause for concern: experts
NORTH BAY -- Despite the open waters and spring weather conditions, those who are eager to get out on their boats are going to have to wait a little while longer.
"The water is normally up closer to, you know, where the dock's end, so they need to keep coming up because if we put boats at these docks, they would just go right under," said Samantha Simpkin, of Fish Bay Marina in Nipissing Township. "They’d get stuck under and maybe do some damage."
Simpkin said usually the boat launch at the marina would still have ice at this time of year. However, the early melt has resulted in muddy conditions with only small boats being able to take advantage.
"It is coming up. It’s come up two inches since Sunday," she said. "So it’s gradually coming up. I guess that’s probably dams at work, but right now, it is low and like it’s challenging for some boats. It’s all mud in our covered slips right now, so that’s why we don’t have a lot of boats in the water just yet."
Officials said despite appearances, water levels seem pretty much on track for the time of year though.
"The current level, believe it or not, is not that unusual for this time of year," said Allison Bannister, a management biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. "So currently, the lake has been measured at 195.23 metres above the sea level and the target level that we usually manage for is 195.5 by the May long weekend."
"The difference is that this year the lake is a little bit more exposed and in most years, the lake would still be covered in ice and snow right now. We would also be expecting runoff and snowmelt to be peaking right about now. However, as you’re aware, snowfall was below average this winter and our early spring has melted the snow that we did have," she added.
This is a trend that has also been observed by officials at the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority.
"For a lot of water sources, like Amable du Fond River, Lavase River, and the Wasi River, they are a little bit below their April average and that’s just because they’ve already had their spring peaks," said Water Resources Engineer Kurtis Romanchuk. "Back in March they were all above average because that’s when we were having snowmelt and runoff and now they’ve sort of descended back down to… like these levels would be typical for May for example. We’re just kind of a little bit early this year."
He said evaluating water levels is a constant process.
"Certainly, throughout the year we do it every day. So we’ll contain to monitor the forecast," Romanchuk said. "There’s a little bit of rain in the forecast over the next couple of days although it’s currently bright and sunny outside but we’ll have to see just what comes."
Officials said there is no cause for concern as the ecosystems are able to adapt and the spring rain is expected to help bring the water levels up.
“Spring spawning behaviour in fish like walleye is dependent on water temperatures, so when the correct temperature is reached, the fish will begin to spawn,” Bannister said. “So although walleye have high site fidelity to certain spawning sites, if for whatever reason a site becomes unavailable even temporarily, these fish may choose to spawn at other locations.”
However, even though officials aren’t concerned, Simpkin just hopes that water levels rise quickly enough for a full boating season.
"We don’t need more setbacks than we’ve had," she said. "Like I say, flooding (the) last couple years and then closures because of COVID so we really need to be able to operate this summer to kind of keep businesses going or people are going to start to go under."
Simpkin said that typically boats start going into the water in May.
For those lucky enough to navigate the shallower waters, officials are warning people to be mindful of rocks, logs and other debris that would usually be underwater by the time boating season begins.