Tim Byrne

High lake levels at Holiday Beach eliminate large portion of beach



By Jolene Perron

“Holiday Beach as lost approximately 50 feet of sandy beach. There are still sandy areas, but it is much more limited now.”

Director of conservation services for Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) Kevin Money said what’s left of the beach is still accessible but there is a short drop off where waves have worn into the shoreline.
“We are not aware of higher lake levels having any effect on bacteria levels,” said Money. “The Health Unit tests regularly and we post our beach accordingly to make sure swimmers are aware of the health risks.”

Currently, they are looking into beach nourishment, which means to import and place more sand on the beach. Additionally, the are looking into shoreline protection, which would involve hardening the shoreline with rock or other designed structure to prevent further erosion, which Tim Byrne, director of watershed management explained is a very large concern based on past history.

“In 1986, those were all-time record high lake levels,” said Byrne. “In 1985/86, we lost several trees, we lost the sand beach and the shoreline eroded and moved landward. As lake levels started to recede, sand came back but the shoreline had receded several meters from its starting point early in 1985. The shoreline stayed relatively stable until 1998 when again, in 1998 we have a briefer high-level period and during that period of time, the beach was lost, some erosion had taken place, we didn’t lose any trees at that point in time.”

During this high lake level period, Byrne explained the lake started to elevate in 2015, increasing over 2016 and now into 2017. Currently, we have lost approximately a meter and a half of shoreline, which is nearing the amount lost in the 1985/86 high lake levels.

Holiday Beach has been impacted by higher lake levels.

Holiday Beach has been impacted by higher lake levels.

Historically, the beach does tend to return according to Byrne. However, the underlying clay and till gets lost and the shoreline overall will move closer. Previously, it took about 12 months after the lake levels were noticeably lowering for the beach level to return to a “normal” state.

“Once you’re at that period of time when lake levels were elevated well above average levels, your coastal process has changed dramatically,” explained Byrne. “There’s something that’s called lateral drift, and that is the capability of the shoreline and the near shore to carry sand and move sand around. Once your area immediately off shore exceeds a meter of depth, that all changes and that’s why the sand kind of disappears, because the waves behave differently. The calmer water periods where you have shallower water is all different, timing is different, and how the lake reacts during storm events is different and it causes sand to be removed, to be pulled out and it causes the underlying soil to erode. When the sand is not there to protect the clay and the till, then the lake actively erodes it.”

Byrne said ERCA doesn’t want to talk all “gloom and doom” because they want people to still come out and enjoy the properties that are available. The beach will return, and ERCA is already putting steps in place to prepare for the beach, which will reestablish itself over time. In the meantime, the remainder of the beach is still open for use, along with their hiking trails, fishing, the hawk tower, and much more.
Holiday Beach is open from dawn until dusk daily.