The main source of water in Echo Lake comes from Lake Anne, straddling three municipalities: Wentworth, Gore and Mille-Isles. Fortunately, the residents of Lake Anne also have great respect for nature and its’ environment. Echo and Anne lakes are part of the same watershed and each of our Associations shares information on the health of its’ respective body of water.
Water flows towards Echo Lake through a series of streams and more or less important bodies of water, including Lake Daïnava and Seale.
This winding 15-kilometre route ends in Jackson Creek, which spills into Echo Lake. The lake is also fed by many underground springs gushing cold currents to the surface to the astonishment of many a bather. Echo Lake has a large discharge of water from Jackson Creek that allows for rapid drainage.
This long journey from Lake Anne to Echo Lake increases the risk of water pollution but fortunately, there are no industry or large-scale farms along its shores. On the contrary, Jackson Creek waters pass through several pristine wetlands that act as natural filters.
Echo Lake is included in the Jackson Creek watershed, which covers approximately 20 square kilometres. The latter is protected by the community organization Jackson Creek Protected Area (JCPA), whose mission is to protect and enhance the environmental characteristics of the watershed. A long-term goal is the creation of a protected natural area, thriving under a mosaic of protective statutes. The Association is obviously an active member of JCPA.
Known for her philanthropic commitment in the defence of nature and its environment, a patron of Echo Lake recently masterminded and carried out the purchase of land in the Jackson Creek Basin in order to ensure its environmental protection. These lands will be handed over to the Municipality of Morin-Heights as a nature reserve subject to strict environmental laws, rights of way and other easements. The process is ongoing and is expected to be formalized by the Quebec government in 2021.
The majority of Echo lake homeowners supported this project and contributed financially. In 2018, the project came to fruition and an area of two hundred and fifteen acres has been spared from development and pollution for always.
While there is no short-term water quality risk within the watershed, several factors unique to Echo Lake require special attention and constant monitoring, such as:
- The large number of lakeside dwellings, many of which were built less than 30 metres from shore ;
- Occasional spills from Lake Dainava, an artificial lake whose water level is controlled by a dam ;
- Miller Sandpit activities upstream of Jackson Creek ;
- The numerous beaver dams ;
- Mud Lake, a small, marshy body of water that occasionally overflows into Echo Lake.
This website is intended to provide immediate references. So we’ve brought together the most current ones and topics relevant to the health of our lake. Our goal is to provide context and answer the questions raised. In addition, we direct readers to proper links and advise them on measures to be taken.
Although we have collected the most accurate information possible and remain on the lookout for changes, we advise readers to check with the relevant agencies before intervening or planning a project related to different topics discussed here. The Association cannot be held responsible for errors and damages.
WATER QUALITY MONITORING
The owners and the Association have one common goal: to keep water quality at its highest level. The results of the lake’s water tests show, year after year, that its quality varies from good to excellent, and that the lake is at a stage of oligo-mesotrophic development. This situation must be cautiously dealt with and requires annual monitoring to detect problems before it is too late.
What to do
For the past two decades, the Association has used the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s (MELCC) Voluntary Lake Monitoring Network program to conduct quality testing of lake water. The sampling is conducted by volunteer residents according to a protocol dictated by the MELCC, which is responsible for the analyses. The results of these follow-ups allow members of the Association’s Environment Committee to act effectively.
The results of these tests are available on this website address : http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/eau/rsvl/relais/rsvl_details.asp?fiche=436
To better assess these results, the Association hires a professional ecologist who, based on these results, prepares a report on the health of the lake and its watershed and tables his recommendations. This allows the Association’s environment committee to develop its action plan, which is then submitted to the approval of members at the annual general meeting in May.
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Lakes age naturally, normally over a very long period of time. This phenomenon is called eutrophication. In fact, it is a process of gradual enrichment of the lake through nutrients. This enrichment causes an undesirable increase in organic production, especially microscopic algae (phytoplankton) and aquatic plants.
Several human activities on the shoreline and within the boundaries of the watershed also accelerate eutrophication. This premature aging is one of the main problems affecting lakes in many resort areas of the Laurentians.
Fortunately, landowners around Echo Lake have always been concerned about the health of their lake. However, over the past 25 years, there have been a growing number of concerns. In response, the Association commissioned numerous studies, consulted several experts and took concrete actions with the same goal, which was to slow down the process of eutrophication of the lake and to maintain its water quality at a high level.
Among the Association’s major undertakings is the extensive shoreline vegetation project of the late 1980’s. Hundreds of trees and shrubs were planted by shoreline owners to prevent erosion of the waterfront and its adverse effects on water quality. In the 1990s, floating wind turbines were installed to oxygenate the body of water. Their effectiveness has never been proven, but this project reflects the Association’s priorities, always ready to adopt the most forward-thinking measures.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SHORELINE
The shoreline must be protected because the health of a lake is largely due to prevailing conditions on the waterfront.
The presence of well-developed shoreline vegetation helps maintain water quality and in general, a healthy lake. Trees, shrubs and plants on the shoreline will fuel their growth by drawing nutrients from the water that naturally flows by gravitation into the lake. If there is not enough vegetation on the shoreline, too much of these nutrients will reach the lake. These new sediments may cause excessive proliferation of aquatic plants and algae in the lake itself.
In addition, dense vegetation on the shoreline controls the level of erosion. The roots of vegetation act as a net to retain the soil and thus limit the quantity of nutrients that filter into the lake.
What to do
Under the Shoreline and Coastal Protection Policy, the Municipality of Morin-Heights has regulated human intervention on the shoreline of lakes and streams within its territory.
The by-law states that owners simply must not touch the shoreline. Indeed, the best way to protect the waterfront is to do nothing. By stopping mowing the grass, nature will quickly regain its rights.
The minimum width of a protected waterfront is fifteen metres, as defined by municipal regulations. The calculation must be made from the high water line. The width of fifteen meters is calculated in a bird’s eye view (as the crow flies), unrelated to the topography of the land.
For example, any intervention to control vegetation, including grass mowing, clearing, felling of trees, spreading mulch, using geotextile to smother grass and applying fertilizer, is prohibited on a strip of land 15 metres from the shoreline.
The Association recommends contributing to the shoreline vegetation process by planting native herbaceous plants and shrubs.
For more information on vegetation, the Interdisciplinary Federation of Ornamental Horticulture of Quebec (FIHOQ) offers reference material. Visit www.quebec.vert to find a list of interesting publications, including the following:
- Je protège mon héritage, je végétalise ma bande riveraine !
ou téléchargez le PDF (1,7 Mo)
- Répertoire des végétaux recommandés pour la végétalisation des bandes riveraines
ou téléchargez le PDF (10,6 Mo)
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Here are some useful definitions :
- The waterfront: it is the strip of land that borders a body of water.
- The shoreline: it is the natural slope that borders the lake.
- The coastline: it corresponds to the winding area where contact between the lake or a body of water and the land is established. The coastline begins from the high water line and extends towards the centre of the lake or body of water.
- The high water line: Depending on the shoreline terrain, the high water line should correspond to the highest water level, that is, the high water mark seen in the spring at the time of thaw. When there is a retaining wall, this line starts from the top of the structure.
CONSTRUCTION AND WORK ON THE WATERFRONT
Work on the edge of a lake or body of water contributes to erosion. This may hinder the filtering role of dense and extensive vegetation on its shore. As a result, the Morin-Heights municipality’s zoning by-law stipulates that no work or construction is allowed on the waterfront.
Prohibited works include tree cutting, walls, embankments, rubble, sheds, boathouses, platforms, sanitary facilities, etc.
Existing buildings, erected prior to the adoption of the by-law, may remain. Beware, they are not an acquired right, if they are demolished or become dilapidated, they cannot be replaced by a new structure.
Some works are permitted on the waterfront, such as the development of a pathway to the lake, the installation of a floating wharf and some natural and mechanical stabilization work. They must comply with the standards set forth by the municipality. It is also possible to cut down dead or diseased trees.
What to do
In all cases, a permit must be obtained before starting work on the waterfront of a lake or body of water, with no exception as to the nature and extent of the work to be undertaken.
For more info
To begin work on the waterfront, you must apply for and obtain a permit, or a certificate of authorization from the municipality. The first step is to visit the City of Morin-Heights’ website. It is always possible to communicate directly with the Town Planning department. Contractors in the area are generally well informed about the licensing process. In all cases, the project must comply with by-laws and regulations.
Creating a path to access to the lake must meet municipal and environmental standards. The path should not be more than five metres wide and be designed to prevent erosion as much as possible. The steeper the bank, the more important it is that the path be laid diagonally in relation to the shoreline.
In compliance with municipal by-laws, a shoreline owner can install a floating dock. For more details, please visit the dock section below.
By-laws allow the removal of dead trees and those damaged by fire, lightning, insects, fungi or other destructive agents in order to protect the waterfront from contamination or if such represent a danger.
Natural and mechanical stabilization works are permitted in some instances. Where slope, vegetation type and terrain conditions permit, stripped-down shorelines can be stabilized by shoreline-specific plants, such as shoreline vines, in order to curb erosion and restore the natural character of the shoreline. If this is not enough or not possible, some mechanical stabilization works can be considered. In this case, the owner must submit his contingency plan and receive the approbation of the municipality before proceeding or calling on the services of a specialist or professional in the field.
STONE, CEMENT AND OTHER WATERFRONT WALLS
These walls were fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s in order to delineate and often add a few square meters of land to the shoreline of the lake or body of water. The construction of such walls is no longer allowed as they affect the waterfront ecosystem.
The old retaining walls have an acquired right. In any case, it would be even more harmful to the health of the lake to demolish them than to preserve them. If these walls were felled, nothing would hold back the runoff water from dragging the eroded soil to the lake or body of water. Unless they have completely collapsed, the existing walls must be repaired and restored provided that this work involves less than 50% of the structure.
What to do
As with all waterfront work, the restoration plan or repair of the walls must be submitted to the Municipality of Morin-Heights for approval to proceed.
When part of a wall has collapsed or more than 50% has fallen, the owner must immediately make every effort to limit erosion. As in the case of shoreline, immediate vegetation of the collapsed wall must be initiated. The tangled roots of these new plants will very soon hold the soil, stabilize the wall and control the damage.
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The walls are damaging the fragile coastal ecosystem. The sun warming the stone has the effect of raising the temperature of the water at the foot of the wall. This can lead to algae blooms and scare off fish that normally spawn in shallower water.
Floating docks are the only private facilities permitted on the waterfront. The docks must meet specific zoning by-laws adopted by the Morin-Heights municipality and must meet municipal standards for location, size and other construction standards (see below).
A floating dock attached to the shoreline is only permitted on a lot occupied by a house and no docks can be installed on a lot to small to build a house.
Docks installed before 2011 on vacant or unbuildable lots, have an acquired right and do not need to be removed. These docks can be repaired but cannot be replaced by a new one. The acquired right is lost if they are removed from the water regardless the reason.
What to do
Plans for a new wharf must be submitted to the municipality for issuance of a permit and certificate of authorization.
Owners must also apply for a permit in order to proceed with maintenance work, major repairs or replacement of a dilapidated floating dock. One should be aware that by-laws have recently been modified and it is not always possible to construct an exact replica of the original structure.
For more info
Floating docks standards and measurements are described in the Morin-Heights Municipality zoning by-laws.
Only floating docks attached to the shoreline are permitted. A floating dock, by definition, allows water to pass freely.
A floating dock must be built at least three meters from the neighbor’s property line.
A floating dock cannot measure more than twenty square meters in size and ten meters in length.
A floating dock cannot advance more than one tenth of the width of the water body.
Nor can a dock accommodate a permanent structure more than one meter high.
As water bodies are federally regulated. Floating docks that are not attached to the bank (commonly referred to as rafts) are regulated by Canadian law and the installation of such is no longer allowed.
What to do
Existing rafts have vested rights. If they are removed, that right is lost and they cannot be replaced. Rafts may be repaired, but a dilapidated raft cannot be replaced with a new one.
FERTILIZERS AND PESTICIDES
Fertilizers and pesticides are routed naturally to the lake by water runoff. Fertilizers contribute to the proliferation of algae and aquatic plants. Pesticides are a source of pollution that can affect the health of wildlife and swimmers. The use of these chemical or biological products is prohibited and regulated by municipal by-laws.
What to do
The use and application of chemical pesticides is prohibited, without exception throughout the municipality of Morin Heights.
Organic fertiliser and herbicides products are permitted. However, it is preferable not to use any of these products, even certified ones, because they will eventually end up, to a certain extent, as water runoff into the lake.
As garden maintenance is often done by a workforce of gardeners and landscapers, the Association recommends that these contractors be warned not to use fertilizers or pesticides.
With homemade compost as fertilizer and grandmother’s recipes to ward off pests, it is possible to achieve proper maintenance of gardens. The Web is an inexhaustible source of solutions.
The same is not the case on the waterfront. Organic fertilizers and herbicides are prohibited without exception. What for? To avoid at all costs feeding the lake with nutrients. Home-made composting products should not be used on the waterfront for the same reasons.
Dead leaves and garden waste must be hauled to more than 30 metres from the shoreline. Decomposing leaves are a nutrient of choice. You should therefore avoid throwing them into the lake or letting them fly there. The less there is, the better.
WATERWASTE TREATMENT (Septic tanks and Leaching fields)
The entire Echo Lake area is not connected to the municipality’s drainage system. Each property has its own wastewater treatment facility.
A faulty system or improper wastewater drainage is an important factor of pollution. Untreated or poorly treated wastewaters that naturally flow into the lake or a body of water can contaminate it and upset the ecological balance. The fecal coliforms in these wastewaters, by mixing with lake waters or a body of water, contribute to the undesirable proliferation of algae and aquatic plants. In very large quantities, the presence of fecal coliforms poses a risk to public health and especially to bathers.
What to do
In compliance with regulations, all owners of detached residences, i.e. not connected to the municipality’s sewer system, are required to drain their septic tanks at least every two years. The owners must send proof of the operation to the municipal planning department. Inspections can be carried out by the municipality and fines are issued to those who do not comply with the regulations.
The Association recommends that owners periodically check their septic installations to verify their proper working order. Untreated water escaping from these systems must not trickle down to the lake since this pollution could seriously affect the quality of the water and the health of aquatic wildlife.
There are two ways you can test your septic installation.
The first one is to perform a coloring test yourself. You can purchase a kit that includes a tracer or liquid that you pour into the toilet tank. If you find traces of this coloured liquid on your land, there is a problem. Such a test costs about thirty dollars. Please contact the Association to find out where you can purchase this kit.
The second option is to hire the services of a specialist. The first step will be an inspection of the site and the production of a report on the condition of the land and of the septic installation. The second step will be a recommendation to proceed or not with tests. The fee is of a few hundred dollars. Please contact the Association for a list of specialised firms and their contact information.
Replacing a septic installation, if that were the case, is a necessary investment. To help in the process, the provincial government has introduced a tax credit equivalent to 20% of the $2500 surplus portion of eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $5,500. This tax benefit expires in 2023. For more details and download, follow the link: https://www.apchq.com/installations-d-assainissement-des-eaux-usees-residentielles-document-d-information
Very few residences around Echo Lake can qualify as seasonal. To be considered seasonal, and thus avoid a biennial drain of the sceptic tank, a building must be occupied less than 180 days per year.
The Association recommends that all homeowners systematically empty their septic systems every two years and in some cases annually.
For more info : http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/eau/eaux-usees/residences_isolees/guide_interpretation/index.htm
In the case of Echo Lake, there are two locations that beavers have historically chosen to build their dams. The first is in Jackson Creek, near the bridge on Log Village Road and the second is slightly upstream of the bridge on Cottage Road.
Beaver dams have always been an issue for the water quality of the lake. These dams become a real threat when they give way or when they must be disassembled to allow water to flow through and prevent flooding of the adjacent area.
Dams accumulate the waste and feces of beavers. When suddenly dismantled, dams are an intense source of pollution. The ideal situation would be to have no human intervention. But this is not always possible when the consequences, especially flooding of the adjacent area, become uncontrollable.
What to do
The dismantling of a beaver dam, if it is to come to this, is an operation that should not be taken lightly or improvised. The first thing to do is to inform the Association and the Municipality. The Association’s Environment Committee will ensure that all measures are taken to protect the environment, the lake and its shores.
Policy 5.1.3 of the MRC of Les Pays-d’en-Haut, overseas the management of beaver dams. In summary, an owner who wishes to have a dam dismantled must notify the municipality that will send an inspector to assess the situation. If there is no threat to the safety of individuals and property, the responsibility for dismantling falls to the owners concerned. A declaration of work must be filed with the municipality.
If there is a threat, the municipality will involve the regional entity that will proceed with the trapping and dismantling, respecting the laws governing environmental and animal protection in order not to cause any damage.
For more info
The Association hires a trapper on an annual basis to better manage the situation. It is essential to avoid letting daring beavers clogging culverts and other passages with branches. Animals, which belong to a protected species, such as beavers, can be captured and released in more remote settings where their activities will be less damaging.
Geese droppings are a significant factor of pollution. Although lakefront and river shoreline owners are very creative in preventing these birds from settling on their land, geese droppings continue to pollute the lake and, water contamination remains an issue. Canada geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Convention (MCA) Act 1994.
What to do
Because of geese related problems in inhabited environments, the Canadian Wildlife Service has relaxed hunting regulations as much as possible. It has also authorized certain licensed management control measures. For your safety and before you initiate any measures, please contact the Association.
As a group we will have to address this issue in the coming months or at least stay on the lookout for developments in this matter. Given the small size of body of water of the lake, the growth of the local geese population is a risk to its overall health. An intervention plan should be initiated.
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Since the dawn of time, geese have only flown over the lake twice a year as part of their annual migration, announcing the arrival of spring or winter in a visual and audible manner. But Echo Lake appeals more to some who return each year and multiply. These large migratory birds return each spring to nest at the exact place where they were born.
Canada geese have become a nuisance in many areas. The safety or food resources provided by parks, wetlands near suburbs, lawns and golf courses are a favourable environment for them to settle into. As hunting is prohibited in these areas, there are very few inhibiting measures to limit the multiplication and concentration of these birds.
ALGAE AND AQUATIC PLANTS
Each new summer season generates a new proliferation of aquatic plants and algae. Aquatic plants have stems, leaves and roots that anchor them to the layer of nutrients that cover the bottom of the lake or a stream.
Algae have no body and float on water.
What to do
It is not unadvisable to gather algea floating near your dock.
However, it is unnecessary and harmful for the ecosystem to remove aquatic plants. Removal of such, does not prevent future regrowth, causes on the contrary increased growth, facilitates the dispersal of invasive species, disturbs aquatic habitat and, above all, does not solve the problem at the source!
Echo Lake has never been infected with blue algae. The latter is fairly easy to recognize, but if in doubt, the Association must be informed of its possible presence. If doubt persists about the nature of the algae, the Association will contact the Ministry of the Environment for an assessment.
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Substances, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, stimulate the growth of algae and aquatic plants. It is quite normal for algae and aquatic plants to develop during the warm season and become more present in August.
Excessive growth could signal a problem caused by too much nutrients entering the lake waters. The tendency to panic is strong, especially since that particular summer, several years back, when cyanobacteria or blue algae led to the closure of several lakes in the province.
One could also witness the phenomenon of inversion. Under some circumstances, inversion can cause bacteria to multiply intensely on the surface. In this case, one you should avoid swimming.
The inversion occurs after several weeks of high temperatures, when the warm water layer on the surface becomes deeper. A sudden cooling of ambient temperatures will then cool the surface water until it becomes colder than the bottom water.
The warm bottom waters can thus rise and bring nutrients and organic matters to the surface. This layer of brown water will eventually be evacuated through the discharge of the lake in a few days.
If the warm weather returns quickly, there may be an unusual development of bacteria on the surface of the water. In this case, it is best not to swim to avoid possible contamination.
BOATING VISITORS AND TENANTS
In recent years, several lakes in the Laurentians have been invaded by myriophyll, a highly invasive exotic plant. This plant, almost uncontrollable, can quickly suffocate a lake. It is transmitted from one body of water to another by boats that have come into contact with the plant. Even though Echo Lake does not have a public ramp or public access, it is not protected from such an invasion.
What to do
All boats of all type, paddles and paddleboards that have been used on other lakes or rivers must be cleaned and rinsed before being used in Echo Lake waters. Evidently, this operation should be carried out as far away from the lake as possible.
Boats owned by tenants and guests must undergo the same treatment. The Jazz on the Rocks event attracts many guests and owners are asked to carefully enforce these cleaning instructions.
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The problem of uninvited guest fishermen who succeed in landing their boats in Echo Lake must be taken very seriously since these boats have most likely not been cleaned and could contaminate the lake with the dreaded myriophyll.
On the Community Life page, we address the issue of the intrusion of fishermen from outside.
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change : http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/index.asp
Shoreline, Coastal and Floodplain Protection Policy : http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/eau/rives/index.htm
Abrinord – Northern River Watershed Organization : https://www.abrinord.qc.ca/
Stream quality monitoring program : https://www.abrinord.qc.ca/projets/programme-de-suivi-de-la-qualite-des-cours-deau/
Regulations and Permits – Municipality of Morin-Heights : http://www.morinheights.com/Reglementation-et-permis
Monitoring Network (VSV) of Resort Lakes (MELCC) : http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/eau/rsvl/index.htm
Conseil régional de l’environnement des Laurentides (CRE) : https://crelaurentides.org/
Jackson Creek: Protected Natural Area