Monday, July 8, 2013

Kipawa Lake Today

Kipawa Lake is part of a vast area of wilderness located on the Quebec side of the Ontario/Quebec border North of Ottawa and North-East of North Bay, Ontario. This area is accessible via HWY 63 which runs from North Bay to Temiscaming, Quebec.

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Thousands visit this area every year to hunt, fish, explore, canoe, kayak and vacation. With the exception of the more populated sections of the lake (which are found in Kipawa, Laniel, Mungo Bay and Red Pine Chutes) the shores of  Kipawa Lake are undeveloped with only the occasional cottage, cabin or fishing lodge. A moratorium on development was imposed in the 1980s preventing any new lots from being sold and putting a limit on outfitting operations. The purpose was to help protect the lake trout fishery which was on the verge of collapse. This moratorium has helped keep Kipawa Lake a wilderness area while many other lakes of its size in the past 30 years have become overdeveloped.

This area is rich in biodiversity, it is home to over 200 different species of plants. Trees in the area include white pine, red pine, white birch, yellow birch, maple, spruce, cedar, aspen, hemlock and many others. Many mammals can be found in this region including beaver, white-tailed deer, moose, black bear, lynx, gray wolf, otter, coyote, mink, fisher, red fox... Birds and waterfowl include loons, ducks, owls, bald eagles, osprey, hawks, swamp sparrows... There are many aquatic organisms, important sport fish include walleye, pike, lake trout and brook trout (in the Kipawa River).

The entire area is within Algonquin territory. Two bands currently exist, Eagle Village First Nation located within the village of Kipawa and Wolf Lake First Nation located at Hunter's Point.

Photo: Historical Map of Ontario

The entire region (Kipawa Lake and surrounding watersheds) is currently at risk. The MRC of Temiscaming is currently carrying out the Kipawa Lake Concerted Management Plan. The plan was put in place to assess current issues in the watershed (water quality issues, invasive species, improper sewage disposal, etc.) and determine if there is room for development. The plan will most likely result in the removal of the moratorium. It is still unclear as to if the removal of the moratorium will allow for development on the shores of Kipawa. However, the value of this area lies in its current undeveloped wilderness state. There has also been talk of a few hydroelectric projects, the Tabaret Dam project and the Innergex projects. However, the Tabaret project is rumored to have been abandoned by Hydro Quebec and the Innergex projects are no longer being actively discussed. The main and major threat to the area is mining. There are several companies currently doing exploration near Brennan Lake (Lac Sairs) and along the Kipawa River. The most advanced project is the Kipawa Rare Earths project by Matamec. This project would see the creation of an open pit rare earths mine, two waste rock piles, a processing facility and tailings sites all within the Kipawa Lake catchment basin. All run off water will find its way into Kipawa Lake and continue on downstream to Lake Temiscaming and the Ottawa River. Rare earth mining exposes radioactive substances as well as harmful heavy metals. Harsh acids and bases are used in the processing. Several trucks of acids and bases would be transported daily through North Bay, along the HWY 63 corridor and then along the Maniwaki Road. Thus putting other watersheds at risk should an accident occur. There have been no rare earths projects in Canada to date and none in the world that have operated without devastating effects on the environment. Help us save Kipawa Lake from destruction. 

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