Ponoka-area poultry farmers have been ordered to restore a Crown-owned lake that the province says was drained illegally.
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development issued an enforcement order under the Water Act against Henk and Gerrie Krijger on Feb. 18 for allegedly performing unauthorized work on the lake.
The province says the unapproved work included draining a 51-acre lake about 10 km east of Ponoka and a smaller wetland, excavating near a lake outlet and putting fill into the lake.
Under the order, the Krijgers must restore the lake to the condition it was in before any unauthorized drainage work was done. They have until March 2015.
Alberta Environment spokeswoman Nikki Booth said the lake was not included as part of the property when it was sold to the Krijgers in August 2011.
Two months later, a public complaint was received that the lake was being drained and water flowing into neighbouring properties. A provincial inspector went out in October and told the Krijgers to stop work. Another visit was made in February 2012 and the inspector noticed unauthorized work was continuing, said Booth.
Another complaint was made in November 2013 that more drainage work was being done. An inspector determined that a drainage trench had been widened.
“With these changes and the continued work on the lake, it was determined we would need to issue an enforcement order to get the remediation work to take place.”
If the landowners don’t do the work, charges could be laid under the Water Act against them and they could face fines or other judge-ordered penalties.
Gerrie Krijger said she and her husband have been trying to resolve the issue with the province.
“We’re still in conversations to see what to do.”
They did not drain the lake, which is shallow and grows and shrinks significantly depending on whether it is a wet or dry year, she said.
“There’s nothing drained. The lake is still there and there’s lots of water.”
What drainage work was undertaken was done on their own land, not Crown land, she said.
“We would never, never dig in Crown land. We know to stay away from Crown land.”
An existing drainage channel was on the land, which is not used as their home quarter section, when they bought it, she added.
“I don’t know if the owner before made it, I have no idea.”