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Aitchison concerned about carrying capacity for local lakes

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PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA, ON- Scott Aitchison is thinking about boats.

Aitchison, who is on leave from his role of Huntsville mayor while running in Parry Sound-Muskoka for the Conservative Party, raised the matter of recreational carrying capacity for local waterways during a recent debate in Gravenhurst between the candidates.

He was speaking after the candidates were asked how they would protect local waterways.

At the time, he said the federal government had many tools when it came to waterway protection, while specifically mentioning the carrying capacity of the local waters when it came to the number of vessels present throughout the area.

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The newsroom reached out to Aitchison to get a better idea of what he was talking about.

Aitchison told us that in his work at the municipal level, there were multiple tools that were used when it came to land use planning. Those tools included measures that could be taken to control migration of phosphates into waterways, protection of the water quality, and the protection of aquatic life.

However, he indicated that area municipalities don’t currently have the ability to examine or regulate the impacts from recreational traffic on their waterways, like boats and jet skis.

He believed that there would need to be collaboration between all three levels of government to look at the creation of tools on that front.

“I think it’s important that our next member of Parliament be part of that process, and be someone that really understands, from the municipal perspective, how that system works and what better tools other levels of government might be able to give to municipalities to help effect that kind of change,” said Aitchison.

He believed there are different ways to create a recreational carrying capacity model for area lakes, and raised the example of lake associations enforcing certain motor sizes on smaller bodies of water.

According to Aitchison, it would be important for lake associations and municipalities to “have the ear” of their provincial and federal representatives if they wanted to take a look at the possibility.

“I think that there is some interest in exploring it,” said Aitchison.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of exactly how something like that might work, and what it may limit or not limit, but I think it’s worth talking about.”

He didn’t have a hard number when it came to the possibility of limiting vessels or their sizes, but believed it would be worth looking at out of concern for lake health.

“The more boat traffic, the more potential harm there could be,” said Aitchison.

“How much boat traffic can the lakes handle? I don’t know the answer to that question. But it doesn’t mean you don’t ask the question, and do some research.”

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