Lana Popham is the MLA for Saanich South.

MLA REPORT: CRD shores up remediation for Elk and Beaver lakes

MLA Report from Saanich South MLA Lana Popham

I’m pleased to report that progress is being made on remediation efforts for Elk Lake and Beaver Lake.

This is an issue that’s been close to my heart for quite some time – I wrote an opinion piece for the Saanich News close to a year ago highlighting the problems these two environmental treasures face.

Blooms of noxious cyanobacteria have become increasingly common over the past years, due to high level of phosphorous in the water. The resulting blue-green algae blooms can be poisonous to both dogs and swimmers.

Many of you may have noticed that the lakes have been regularly closed to the public because the health risk is too high. The health of fish in the lakes is also declining, and harmful aquatic weeds are spreading rapidly.

The deterioration of Elk and Beaver lakes is especially concerning given their importance in Saanich, and indeed, across the entire Capital Regional District. Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park is the most heavily-used park in the CRD with an astonishing 1.46 million visits in 2016. The lakes are also home to the National Rowing and National Triathlon teams, and are popular with recreational fishers and boaters as well. Walkers and runners (including myself!) frequent the trail that goes throughout the park, and the swimming beaches are so popular it can be hard to find a spot in summer.

One thing is clear: Elk and Beaver lakes need to be protected.

That’s why I’m pleased to see the CRD Regional Parks Committee is voting June 21 on two recommendations aiming to do exactly that.

The first recommendation is specific to Beaver Lake, and suggests purchasing an aeration system at a cost of around $40,000. This system would work to minimize algae growth, promote aquatic plants, discourage invasive species, and improve the recreational use of land. These are all desirable outcomes.

The second recommendation is specific to Elk Lake, and involves developing a business case for purchasing a high-efficiency, deep-water oxygenation system for Elk Lake. This system would be significantly more expensive – a one-time cost of $700,000 would be needed to purchase and install the equipment, and maintenance and operation costs over a 10-year period could average about $85,000 a year.

Although developing a business case (essentially a drawn-out cost/benefit analysis) means that Elk Lake will likely not receive a specialized system until at least the next fiscal year – which is disappointing – I am happy that the CRD is performing its due diligence to evaluate all options. This should ultimately minimize the cost of the project for taxpayers, as grants and external funding sources could be pursued. It is my hope, however, that progress will continue at a fast pace. Simply put, we don’t have time to lose.

I will continue to monitor this issue closely, and will provide more public updates as new information becomes available. Let’s work together on this issue to create a better Saanich, and a better British Columbia.

Lana Popham is the MLA for Saanich South.