An open house seeks public input on ways to reverse the “deteriorating” water quality of Elk/Beaver Lake in Saanich.
The event scheduled by the Capital Regional District (CRD) for July 31 at the Greek Community Hall at 4648 Elk Lake Drive affords interested area residents and groups a chance to comment on the development of a watershed management plan. It takes place after the CRD hired temporary staff in 2017 to develop a remediation strategy and to establish a watershed management plan with three goals: reduce blue-algae blooms, improve fish habitat, and manage weed growth to improve recreational use.
Internal CRD research in partnership with an intergovernmental working group (IWG) had found that a high level of nutrients coming from external and internal sources have undermined water quality.
“Studies show the water quality of Elk/Beaver Lake is deteriorating,” said the CRD in a release announcing the forum. “High nutrient levels have contributed to algae blooms, increased invasive aquatic plant growth, low dissolved oxygen levels, and decreasing water clarity. Many levels of government are involved in the lake and are working collaboratively to address the water quality issues.”
The upcoming forum on July 31 starts with an open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m., followed by a presentation running until 8 p.m. Interested parties can also submit comments online or take part in a workshop later this summer. A draft watershed management plan will see the public light later in 2019, following the initial feedback. Subsequent feedback will inform the CRD board in developing a final watershed management plan. A separate in-lake remediation plan currently underway will deal with the internal nutrients that have built up in the lake sediments.
The question of water quality has long vexed the CRD. In March 2019, the CRD lifted — not for the first time — a toxic algae advisory that lasted for several months. In June 2018, a senior CRD manager said the region risks losing the social and economic benefits of Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park without efforts to improve water quality.
“Overall, water quality in the lakes is declining and with cyanobacterial [blue-green algae] blooms increasing in frequency and duration in Elk and Beaver Lakes, the risk to health of humans and pets and park use is rising,” said Glenn Harris, senior manager of environmental protection in a report.
Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park ranks as the most-used park in the region, generating 1.5 million visits, and hosts several athletic competitions. “These activities can bring significant economic contributions to the region,” said Harris at the time.
A technical report prepared by Rowing Canada Aviron had also raised concerns about the ecological state of Elk/Beaver Lake thanks to the frequency of blue-green algae blooms. An official with Rowing Canada Aviron acknowledged this aspect earlier this year, but said the lake’s ecological state was not the decisive factor in Rowing Canada Aviron’s decision to establish a permanent national training centre in North Cowichan instead of Saanich.