Lacombe County rejects $160,000 request for Gull Lake environtal projects

Gull Lake Watershed Society hoped to use wetlands and geotubes to filter out contaminants

An environmental group’s proposal to improve Gull Lake water quality with a wetlands park and “geotube” filters will not get financial backing from Lacombe County.

Gull Lake Watershed Society went before council in January 2019 seeking $160,000 over four years for its initiatives. The group hoped to buy 40 acres of land near the lake to create a wetlands, which would serve as a natural contaminant filter.

The society is alarmed at data which showed nutrient levels were 24 to 80 times above what are considered safe levels of phosphorous — which are largely caused by agricultural runoff. High phosphorous levels damage lake ecosystems and promote blue-green algae infestations.

The society also hoped to get support to go ahead with its innovative geotube filter project that would see giant sacks of fine mesh along drainage routes to capture contaminants before they hit the lake. Council agreed last year to send a letter to Alberta Environment and Parks asking them to explore the geotube idea.

County manager Tim Timmons said there has been no word from the province as to whether they are assessing the feasibility of geotubes.

After a county review of the watershed society’s proposals, administration recommended not providing the requested money. Ponoka County had been asked for a similar $160,000 contribution and council rejected it.

The Summer Villages of Gull Lake and Parkland Beach had pledged $8,000 each on the condition the county’s came up with their shares.

Timmons said there were a number of concerns with the society’s proposals.

“We’re not clear on what degree of benefit these projects will actually have on the lake,” he said. “There’s no guarantee any good will come of it if we decide to go ahead with these projects.”

The county also had doubts that the requested financial support would prove enough for the ambitious goetube project, which would also likely involve ongoing operational costs.

“That wasn’t clear to us — what we would be looking at down the road.”

Timmons said the county is also wary of setting a precedent by supporting the project. Other groups may expect similar efforts to be made on other water bodies in the county.

While the watershed society’s plan to create a wetlands park with trails did not get county backing, a similar wetlands is to be created nearby. After the recent sale of a property near the lake, the county protected a low-laying wetlands area by designating it an environmental reserve.

“Really, I think we have accomplished what they wanted to accomplish with the wetlands environmental park,” he said.

Council voted unanimously to turn down the society’s request.

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