People were concerned about water quality, fish habitat and access to public beaches at Gull Lake during a public hearing on the Gull Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan held on Saturday morning at the Lacombe Memorial Centre that drew about 60 people.
“I question whether or not the approval of this plan is not putting the cart before the horse,” said Ted Killen, of McLaurin Beach, on Saturday.
“I don’t think the politicians really understand what they’re dealing with, the engineering firm doesn’t understand what they’re dealing with because they haven’t had the time to do the proper research.”
The plan sets out future land use and development around Gull Lake and looks at ensuring that groundwater is managed in a sustainable manner, water quality is improved, the agricultural industry is maintained and public access to the lake is available.
The plan was prepared by Williams Engineering Canada Inc. for Lacombe County, Ponoka County, the Summer Village of Gull Lake and the Summer Village of Parkland Beach.
Killen has lived at McLaurin Beach for 50 years. He said in the past the lakeshore was a rocky lakeshore and excellent fish spawning area and over the years the rocky area has been covered with sand and now if you step off the shore you sink up to your knees in muck.
He wonders what will happen to the lake in the future.
He said a couple of weeks ago there was a fish kill at Gull Lake and he saw a fish every 10 feet along the shoreline in front of McLaurin Beach.
He said the vegetation has gotten up to a foot deep in some areas and six feet wide along the shoreline.
“Nothing has been mentioned about what has happened at other lakes in Alberta and how the experience there may impact on the situation at the lakes around Central Alberta,” Killen said. He pointed to lakes near Edmonton that have deteriorated and are no longer desirable properties.
“If you read the plan that is in place now it is definitely developer orientated. I think it addresses development rather than knowing the history of what you’re really dealing with,” Killen said.
Irene Kurta-Lovell, of Bluffton, spoke at the public hearing on her concerns about the water quality from creeks and streams that feed into the Blindman River and then into Gull Lake.
The Alberta government has paid to pump water out of the Blindman River into the lake since the 1970s, but sent word last fall to the municipalities around the lake to let them know they’ll have to start sharing some of the cost.
Kurta-Lovell said many of the creeks and streams flowing into the Blindman and then into Gull Lake have been damaged by agriculture and other forms of development and people are getting whatever comes out of the Blindman River at Gull Lake. She said in the spring there were a number of pump outs at the sewage lagoon in Bluffton.
“So basically folks what you’re getting is your own poop back as it goes down the Blindman River,” Kurta-Lovell said.
“So really what I’m trying to stress is the importance of putting a lot of attention to what we can do about the streams, the creeks and the Blindman River, that is essential to Gull Lake.”
Bob Riddett, a consultant from the company that prepared the document, said under the plan engineering tests will be required to prove that every development has enough groundwater to supply new people without depleting existing users, developers will have to minimize the use of aquifers that feed the lake and development will be based on the supply of groundwater, rather than a specific “numerical ceiling” on development.
Riddett said multi-lot developments must be connected to piped sewer systems to improve water quality and a ring of natural vegetation must be maintained around the lake to protect fish habitat. The counties will consider purchasing land for public access using funds paid by developers.
Councillors from the four municipalities were not able to speak about the plan because it is currently part of a public hearing.
All four municipalities will take the document back to their municipalities and determine if they want to move ahead and do three readings to adopt the plan or make more changes before it passes.