Municipalities around Gull Lake are meeting with Alberta Environment officials this month in hopes of working out an agreement on funding a long-running lake stabilization plan.
In 2009, communities that see the lake as a valuable recreational and ecological gem were alarmed by reports the province was considering ditching a program that had been in place since the 1970s to pump water out of the Blindman River into the lake during dry spells.
The province later offered to continue the program if the municipalities paid electricity costs for pumping, estimated at $100,000 to $150,000 annually.
The Alberta government would handle all maintenance and capital costs.
A number of meetings have been held with provincial officials, including a face-to-face session with Environment Minister Rob Renner in March.
Lacombe County Terry Hager said his municipality, Ponoka County and the Summer Villages of Gull Lake and Parkland Beach have agreed to take on a share of electricity costs. What remains to be determined is how much of the bill municipalities will foot.
“I would say that at least the municipalities were prepared to consider something. I wouldn’t say that they’ve made any commitment at this point,” said Hager.
How much of the cost municipalities would agree to take on will be discussed at a meeting with Alberta Environment on June 16.
Hager expressed optimism that progress has been made on the issue. “I’m hopeful that we’re getting very close to a resolution.”
What he hopes comes out of the upcoming meeting is a long-term agreement on funding arrangements and how the pumping program will be operated.
Lake levels are an important issue for municipalities because Gull Lake is not fed by a river and water levels can drop dramatically during dry periods. Communities are concerned that water quality and valuable habitat for birds and fish could be jeopardized and recreational opportunities lost if the lake’s level is allowed to get too low.