The County of Wetaskiwin has signed on to an important document aimed at improving and protecting the health of Pigeon Lake, although it was not without intense debate.
Presented at the regular council meeting June 8, the Pigeon Lake Watershed Association’s watershed management plan had been presented to council a few weeks ago, with a request from the non-profit association that council approve the plan.
“At the April 3rd, 2018 Council General meeting Mr. Robert (Bob) Gibbs, Chair of the Pigeon Lake Watershed Management Plan Steering Committee (PLWMPSC) Chair and Mr. Don Davidson, PLWMPSC Vice Chair attended before Council to present the Pigeon Lake Watershed Management Plan (PLWMP) 2018. At that time Council accepted the plan as information,” stated a staff memo to council.
“Concerns presented at the April 3rd, 2018 council general meeting regarding the plan were: The plan currently indicates the county will have to review or change statutory plans already in place; The Pigeon Lake Watershed Management Plan (PLWMP) makes reference that their role is the “Lead” versus “Support Group” in the recommendations to which Mr. Davidson and Mr. Gibbs responded that the plan could be amended to reflect “Support Group;” The importance of involving the First Nations was stressed for the success of the plan to which Mr. B. Gibbs replied their involvement has been positive and a good working relationship is being developed; The County of Wetaskiwin implemented strategies in keeping Pigeon Lake healthy and that it was imperative that the county see more of a commitment from other municipalities and; The watershed residents are wishing to see a collaborative effort from all municipalities and government working together.”
County CAO Rod Hawken told councilors the committee confirmed that all of their concerns had been understood and addressed in the PLWMA, a copy of which was given to councilors.
Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers stated that if the management plan was written into county bylaw, enforcement would be difficult because the municipality doesn’t have the manpower to do it. Rooyakkers also noted the county has more than one large lake.
Rooyakkers said she was hesitant to accept the plan because it’s not likely the plan can be included in county bylaws, and the fact many other municipalities are involved in Pigeon Lake who have their own bylaws.
Councilor Dale Woitt said the county should take a leadership role. “I think we need to be part of the solution, though,” said Woitt.
Rooyakkers said she wasn’t arguing, just concerned. “I agree but…I can’t speak for six other people there on our bylaws.”
Referring to the PLWMP steering committee’s response to the county’s concerns, Rooyakkers said, “A lot got addressed. Not all.”
Hawken said councilors had several options open to them, including following the steering committee’s request, removing parts they didn’t like or turning it down.
Councilor Lyle Seely said he balked at changing the county’s land use bylaw for this plan.
Councilor Josh Bishop stated the plan didn’t say the county was “required” to do anything, but only asked to “consider” doing it.
Councilor Terry Van de Kraats agreed, noting the plan was not binding.
Rooyakkers stated bylaws have to apply to everyone, and she preferred leaving the LUB out of this issue.
Councilors unanimously voted in favour of working collaboratively with other Pigeon Lake watershed municipalities, the Pigeon Lake Watershed Association and the Pigeon Lake Watershed Steering Committee to implement the Pigeon Lake Management Plan – 2018.