The province has been asked to throw its legislative weight behind a successful initiative that encourages ice fishers to remove their huts from lakes before spring thaw.
The Take It Off program was started around eight years and was at first focused on Sylvan Lake, but it now covers Gull and Buffalo lakes as well.
Lacombe County Coun. Keith Stephenson said the communities involved would like to see the province take over the program and make it a provincewide initiative.
Alberta Environment and Parks has been approached to take over the removal and disposal of abandoned ice huts, but said they did not have the resources, Stephenson told Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr when he met with council last week.
A letter has been sent to Environment Minister Jason Nixon asking for provincial help.
Department spokesman Josh Zarobiak said they are looking at options to address abandoned ice fishing huts.
“The Take It Off municipal program has been effective, but we can do more to ensure compliance within the ice-fishing community, which is by and large a good steward of our lakes,” Zarobiak says in an email.
Once there are options on the table, Alberta Environment and Parks will meet with stakeholders, including municipalities and other partners, before going ahead with any new initiatives.
Those behind the Take It Off program would like to see the province come aboard because it has more regulatory muscle.
The Take It Off program has no authority to charge or fine those who abandon their huts and leave municipalities with the costly, and sometimes risky, job of removing them.
Technically, participating Take It Off communities have no legal authority to remove and dispose of the ice huts, said Lacombe County manager Tim Timmons.
“That’s why we need a little help from the province.”
Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, where thousands of ice huts dot the province’s lakes, all run provincial programs.
Before Take It Off was launched, abandoned ice huts were becoming a big problem in central Alberta. In 2011, about two dozen were left to melt through the thinning ice on Sylvan Lake and another dozen or so on Gull Lake.
Besides the environmental problems created by abandoned propane tanks and other ice hut furnishings, the wreckage posed a risk to boaters and other lake users.
By registering ice huts, the owners could be contacted when it looked time to remove them. It also provided contact information in case of vandalism and theft.