Each summer, Ed Evans’ Oro-Medonte cottage gives him advance notice that high-performance boats are about to come roaring by on Lake Simcoe.
“It will rattle the windows from a half-a-kilometre away,” he said. “The noise is unbelievable.”
Evans, with the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, says people who worked hard on the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, passed two years ago, believe these boats are damaging to the lake.
“There’s a lot of serious issues with the lake in regards to fish reproduction, in regards to being able to sail, or canoe, or for kids to swim on the lake,” he said. “I think it’s one of the most damaging parts of what’s affecting it these day.”
Evans has had a family cottage on the lake for 50 years. He and his family live in Newmarket.
“We want a nice, safe, healthy place for the generations to come and we are really, really worried about the lake the shape it’s in now,” Evans said.
Carl McBride, president of Performance Boats Club of Canada, based out of Orillia, says performance boaters in his club are wrongly stereotyped.
“The persona is that we’re just a bunch of loud and rowdy performance boaters and we’re not,” he said. “The club is really comprised of a lot of business and community leaders in various communities. As a group, we try to operate respectfully in all of the communities that we host our events.”
The non-profit club is running six charity events this year, two of which run through Lake Simcoe, McBride said.
The kickoff run takes place Saturday to benefit the Simcoe County Chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.
The club ran five poker runs in 2009, raising more than $50,000 for various charities in southern Ontario.
Though he acknowledges the boats are loud, they operate within Transport Canada’s noise abatement laws and regulations, McBride said.
“We’re well within legal requirements,” he said. “They’re going to be making noise just like anything out there does. They’re not any louder than a Harley on city streets.”
The boats typically travel 120 kilometres an hour on open water, but are capable of reaching 241 kilometres per hour, McBride said, stressing that the runs are not races.
“Nobody really runs that unless the conditions are ideal for it,” he said. “Anywhere there is a speed limitation, we’re abiding by that.”
Safety is of the utmost importance to the club, McBride said. The boats are escorted by police and firefighters throughout the route, he said.
“We have been around for 20-plus years with no incidents under our belt,” McBride said. “We exercise extreme caution, extreme diligence. That’s why we work very closely with law enforcement, fire and rescue.”
Campaign Lake Simcoe at Environmental Defence in Toronto is advocating against the high-performance boats on Lake Simcoe. Advisor Claire Malcolmson says she will recommend they not be on in-land lakes, like Lake Simcoe, during upcoming Lake Simcoe Recreation Strategy discussions.
“As the province starts working on its recreation plan with other stakeholders, (we ask) they consider not letting these noisy boats operate on Lake Simcoe,” she said. “This is an activity that is destructive to the lake and irritating to those not participating.”
Studies state that the heart rate of lab fish exposed to loud noises goes up, Malcolmson said. Further studies need to be completed to see how this affects their behaviour.
“The overall goal of what we’re trying to do with Lake Simcoe is restore its health and the fish are a very good indicator of the lake’s health,” she said. “They’re still not reproducing naturally at the level that would indicate that the lake is healthy.”
The wake from performance boats and loud noises could be having a negative effect on fish spawning, Malcolmson said.
“If sediment dirt is kicked up, (it could) also have a negative impact on fish spawning,” she said. “More study is needed on that, but there are studies that indicate that.”
High performance boats are likely less damaging than smaller watercraft that stay near the shoreline, McBride said.
“I think you’ve probably got more of a disturbance with personal watercrafts buzzing up and down through the shallows and in the weirs,” he said. “When we run and we’re running at speed, we’re out on open water and the exhaust is above the water, not below the water.”
Because the exhaust system is above the water, the noise level below is also quieter, he said.
“The amount of noise being transmitted below the surface with these performance boats would actually be less than what a standard family boat would provide,” McBride said. “Unless the fish has got his head stuck above the water and he’s got his little fins over his fish ears, when somebody shows me that, then I’ll take note.”