Residents, governments, agencies and those concerned with lake health in Alberta gathered at the Lakedell Ag Society’s meeting room May 10 for the Alberta Recreational Lake forum.
As the forum began, it was pointed out the goal of the event was to support networking, knowledge-sharing and collaboration for Alberta’s lake stewardship community.
The forum began with a fascinating presentation about “ice quakes,” a situation that, if you lived near central Alberta lakes on Jan. 1 of this year, you’d already be familiar with.
Laurence Andriashek, a geologist who works under the Alberta Energy Regulator, said seismic events were detected at several lakes on Jan. 1, including Gull, Pigeon and Lac St. Anne just before midnight. He noted some cottage area residents near those lakes later reported hearing noise and feeling vibrations related to the “ice quakes.” Wabamun also apparently had some effects on their lake. He noted in his presentation he was going to focus on Lac St. Anne.
Andriashek stated residents reported hearing large noises and reported some strange shapes in the ground, almost like waves in the ground. He noted what happened to the lake and ground nearby is referred to an “ice quake.”
He explained the weather plays a significant role in “ice quakes.” Last winter, in December, there was very cold weather that also didn’t leave much snow cover on the ground. Around New Years, that was followed by some warmer weather and some other factors, such as lake level, also played a role.
The cold and warm weather alternating, grouped with the lack of snow cover, resulted in the lake ice cracking and freezing, contracting and expanding, which subsequently created ice wall shapes on the lake and shore, plus strange shapes in the ground. Andriashek noted this happened in some areas of the lakes, but not others.
The strange weather even caused damage to one building’s foundation.
Andriashek stated the ice may have expanded up to six meters, while his peers measured ice that expanded between three and four meters and the geologist noted the ice, while expanding, ahs to find somewhere to go.
County of Wetaskiwin CAO Rod Hawken gave an update on the Pigeon Lake Regional wastewater project.
He noted Phase I is complete; the septic station for trucks is open and charges a $30 fee to dump.
The formation of a South Pigeon Lake Water Commission is in the works. Once a board of directors is named, it can begin operation.
The next phase in the project is expected to begin construction mid-year, added Hawken.
Summer village point of view
Summer Village of Ma-Me-O Beach councilor John Slater then spoke. He gave a brief overview of why, over the past 15 years or so, wastewater has become the topic of conversation around Pigeon Lake.
He said the lake began to show signs of stress, and one of the causes was human waste.
Slater noted residential connections to the regional wastewater system are scheduled to begin this year. He said not all summer villages surrounding Pigeon Lake are handling the wastewater issue the same way.
U of A PhD candidate Sydney Rudko gave a presentation on engaging citizens in beach monitoring using DNA-based molecular testing.
She stated monitoring for biological hazards in Alberta lakes is very important, and monitoring recreational water could be tricky or time-consuming, or both. Bringing testing right to the lakes is an approach scientists want to do.
She said a program at the U of A proposes recruiting “citizen scientists” to test lake water themselves, and send the results to the U of A. Rudko said the university is curious to see how “citizen scientists” embrace this program. The citizens would each receive a testing unit and the training needed to use it.
The test would detect toxic cyanobacteria and fecal bacteria.
Bradley Peter from the Alberta Lake Management Society discussed the ALMS’ Lakewatch program, which he said is a volunteer-based water quality monitoring program offered to Albertans who are interested in collecting information about their local lake or reservoir.
He noted ALMS has much data available on their website from previous seasons.
The upcoming season includes working at about 37 lakes.
Living by Water
Brian Ilnicki, of Nature Alberta, described the “Living by Water” program and its sequel, “Living by water 2.0.” He said the program previously met face-to-face with watershed residents for things like property consultation.
However, he said the 2.0 version of the program, partbnering with Watersheds Canada, is going to take a different approach and will involve things like shoreline assessments.
Cows and Fish
Cows and Fish representative Kelsey Spicer-Rawe discussed the organization’s dedication to riparian health since 1996.
She presented some statistics about shorelines and lakes in Alberta which weren’t particularly heartening: only about a third of them are healthy, the rest are either healthy with issues or unhealthy.
The forum also included a session where participants could interact with presenters, a solutions brainstorming session and an optional energy and conservation roundtable discussion.