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Gull Lake Watershed Society urging action on falling lake levels

Filter available to ensure invasive species not pumped into Gull Lake from Blindman River

Gull Lake water levels continue to fall and an environmental group is lobbying the province to restart a pumping program to pull water from Blindman River

The Gull Lake water stabilization system was built in the 1970s to help maintain water levels in the lake that had fallen 2.6 metres between 1924 and 1976. For more than 40 years when water levels fell below a certain threshold pumps drew water from Blindman River into the lake.

However, the discovery of the invasive Prussian carp in the river in 2018 brought a halt to the practice for fear of contaminating the lake with the fish.

Gull Lake Watershed Society members, which includes engineers and biologists, went to work to find ways to filter out the carp and their tiny eggs from river water before it is pumped into the lake, said society director Craig MacLeod on Monday.

After testing different technologies a filtration system was developed and tested successfully. Stantec engineering consultants reviewed the findings and verified the filter system was 100 per cent successful in catching carp eggs before they could reach the lake, said

Stantec estimated the cost of installing a full-size filtration system at $400,000 and recommended other upgrades to the pumping system to improve efficiency.

A resumption of pumping is badly needed, said MacLeod. In the last few years, water levels have fallen another 60 cm, which has extended the shoreline so far out into the lake that most private boat launches can no longer be used.

“It’s very difficult and dangerous to launch these bigger boats,” said MacLeod.

Low water levels are also threatening one of central Alberta’s most popular recreation lakes that is ringed by campgrounds, numerous cottages and attracts tens of thousands of visitors every summer.

Lacombe and Ponoka Counties and many others who appreciate what the lake brings to central Alberta have been supportive of the society’s efforts to bring lake stabilization back, he said.

The society went before Lacombe County council last week to enlist support in its efforts to lobby Alberta Environment and Protected Places to provide the green light and funding to restart the pumping program this summer. Letters have been sent to local MLAs, Environment and Protected Areas Minister Sonya Savage and Forestry, Parks and Tourism Minister Todd Loewen calling for action.

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