South Peace News
Steps to mitigate flooding, protect streams and designate beach areas have been set at the top of the list for watershed management for Big Lakes County.
At a special meeting Sept. 13, council set the priorities as the Lesser Slave Watershed Council presented the draft Lesser Slave Integrated Watershed Management Plan.
“Part of our role is to engage municipalities and other stakeholders in the watershed and ensure the provincial government is aware of the watershed management priorities and issues,” LSWC executive director Meghan Payne says.
“The provincial government is a partner in watershed management and there are many recommendations in the watershed plan that they are tasked with, along with other stakeholders.”
She says 80 per cent of the watershed is Crown land managed by the Government of Alberta, which has a major role.
Council and staff are eager to work with the watershed council.
“It’s very important that we brought up three to four items to focus on,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.
He expressed a strong need to get support and funding from the government to protect and enhance the watershed.
“We can identify our concerns, and government is well aware of our concerns of flooding; we don’t have the resources and funding,” Matthews says.
Logjams and flooding in Horse Lakes wetland complex was the biggest concern from the county.
“If something isn’t done about Horse Lakes, there’s going to be major flooding all the way to High Prairie from log jams backing up water upstream,” Prairie Echo – Salt Prairie Councillor Dave Marx says.
Enilda – Big Meadow Councillor Donald Bissell suggested that one potential cause of flooding are beavers and beaver dams.
“Debris from dams is coming down the rivers,” Bissell says.
Beavers could be included as part of the flood mitigation strategy discussions, says environmental biologist Sandi Riemersma of Palliser Environmental Services, who produced and explained the management plan.
She told council that not every concern may be addressed through the plan and encouraged the county to focus on issues that align with current priorities and interests.
“There may be things beyond our control, but there are some things we can manage better,” Riemersma says.
“The plan is designed to bring partners and resource managers together to address issues and work to achieve common goals.”
She acknowledges that the plan and any proposed work must comply with regulatory policy of government.
The plan recommends preserving natural shoreline and identifying key areas where beaches may be maintained and cleaned for community enjoyment and recreation.
“To promote tourism, we need to clean our beaches,” says High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Don Charrois, who suggested the issue before it was presented as a recommendation.
Watershed management is a shared responsibility, Riemersma says.
The plan presents 31 recommendations related to municipalities and others that apply to the LSWC, the provincial government, industry, non-government organizations and landowners.
County council plans to pass a motion to support the draft plan at an upcoming meeting, which could be as soon as Oct. 10, says deputy CAO Jordan Panasiuk.