County questions planned study by watershed council

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County has turned down funding for a planned study of Lesser Slave Lake since most council members believe the results won’t hold much water.

At its regular meeting Jan. 10, council received a request for a donation of $7,500 to Lesser Slave Watershed Council for a project estimated at $160,000.

Instead, the request was received for information after several councillors questioned the value of the shoreline habitat assessment and mapping project.

“Most local users of the lake won’t give a darn what the report will say,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.

“I don’t think we need to spend $160,000 on a company from eastern Canada to conduct the study.”

The watershed council has received a total of $122,640 in funding from the provincial Watershed Restoration and Resiliency Grant toward the project estimated at $160,000, says a report from Heather Nanninga, director of corporate services.

“In 2018, the LSWC plans to work with Living Lakes Canada and a professional team of scientists to complete a desktop GIS assessment using current data and satellite imagery, complete a shoreline and littoral zone survey that will examine and record the immediate upland, riparian area, and littoral zone around the entire 252-km lakeshore,” says a letter from LSWC executive director Meghan Payne. “With this information, everyone around the lake will know the most sensitive ecological areas and we can work together to ensure they are conserved or developed appropriately.”

All the information in the report can be used by municipalities, provincial planners, scientists, developers, conservation groups, Indigenous communities and private landowners, she adds.

However, many council members challenged another study of the lake.

“That’s been studied to death over the last 30 years, they can draw from previous reports,” Prairie Echo – Salt Prairie Councillor Dave Marx says.

“If we do anything, we should do it locally.”

Sunset House – South Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart agrees the study be done by local people.

“Get a local study, we’d be better off,” Matthews says.

Some questioned how useful the report will be as bodies of water are regulated by governments higher than local municipalities.

“After the report, what weight will it hold?” Matthews says.

“Why do a study if someone else can over-rule it?” Kinuso Councillor Ken Killeen says.

The motion to receive the report for information was opposed by Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard, Joussard Councillor Richard Simard and Grouard Councillor Fern Welch, who support the project for the watershed council.

“This is a big project and they’re raising a lot of money for it,” Nygaard says.

The study is something new and the company is valuable in the projects, Simard says.

“They have talked to other watershed councils about the project and the company and they said it’s good,” says Simard, who represents the county on the watershed council.

Matthews, Marx, Killeen, Stewart, Enilda – Big Meadow Councillor Donald Bissell and High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Don Charrois favoured the motion to receive for information.

 

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