CRD takes action to restore water quality at Saanich lakes

Committee approves hiring co-ordinator and purchase of weed harvester

The Capital Regional District is moving forward with an aggressive approach to restore the suffering waters of Elk Lake and Beaver Lake.

The CRD’s environmental services committee is recommending the hiring of a co-ordinator to oversee the watershed management of the two lakes. The committee is also recommending the purchase of a $200,000 aquatic weed harvester, as the long weeds of the lake are a key issue in need of addressing, said committee chair and Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff.

The role of the new co-ordinator would be to connect with the broad range of stakeholders from the region to build a restoration plan, as the CRD did with restoration and daylight of Bowker Creek.

“The lake is not in good health, its oxygen is depleting, and weed growth is so much that [the hired] contractor can’t keep up with the invasive weed harvest,” Brownoff said. “[Reports show] more and more algae blooms.”

Retired Olympic gold medal rower (2008 Beijing) Kevin Light recently joined in a training session with the University of Victoria rowing team when he was startled to see them make a wide turn in an area he never had in his two decades of rowing at the lake.

“I didn’t follow them and quickly realized why they did that as I was in some deep weeds,” said Light. “It’s actually dangerous as it could flip a rower in a single boat, especially for junior rowers. The weeds stick right to the oar.”

Light has put thousands of hours on the lake and said the weeds are as bad now as ever. Rowers are one of the biggest user groups, as Rowing Canada, the Victoria City Rowing Club and most of the regional high school rowing teams use the waters year round (and with a minimal to zero footprint).

The long weeds are particularly bothersome for rowers as the lakes are at an unusual low following the summer drought, another element causing stress to the water quality.

The frequency and severity of algae blooms are a telltale sign of the lake’s health and yet it’s believed they will only increase in frequency, while fish habitat will deteriorate further.

The new co-ordinator will lead to a plan to improve the water quality and clarity, reduce weeds, restore oxygen and enhance its benefits to the environment such as habitat and biodiversity.

The lake and surrounding park is a major revenue generator as the Subaru Ironman 70.3 triathlon in June brings 1,600 competitors and an estimated $5 million in economic value to the region. Algae blooms are  threatening the future of the triathlon.

Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park had about 1.48 million visits in 2014 including about 14,000 visits by fishing anglers.

 

reporter@saanichnews.com