A Lacombe Lake resident is dismayed Lacombe County council has put any decision on altering lake levels on hold.
Anita and brother Robert Alexander and neighbour Robert Enns went to council last month urging the county to reduce the water level in the lake to a level agreed to by lake residents in 1969 before a weir was built at the north end of the lake to help control spring runoff in Whelp Creek.
The weir is not functioning as it should and the lake is now at least a foot higher than the maximum agreed to and it is destroying the shoreline, killing trees and turning previously accessible areas into swamps, they argued.
On Thursday, county council debate what to do about Lacombe Lake and opted to take no action at this time.
“Delaying a decision to an unknown time will only exacerbate the damage,” said an email from Anita Alexander, who attended the council meeting with her husband. “Anyone with eyes can see the damage, such as erosion, loss of land, dead trees, massive silt buildup and weed growth.”
Members of the Lacombe Lake Watershed Stewardship Society took a completely opposite position when they went before council in May. The society contends lake levels are lower than historical averages, reducing water quality and promoting the growth of algae and weeds and threatening fish habitats.
The society wants to see the weir adjusted to allow more water to flow into the lake.
To further complicate the issue, Blackfalds has proposed using the lake as part of a stormwater management plan designed to allow development in the northwest part of the town.
The Blackfalds Northwest Stormwater Management Plan was approved by Alberta Environment and Parks in July 2020. An appeal was launched a month later and a three-day Environmental Appeals Board hearing took place in June 2021. Since then the issue has been in limbo. No decision has been made public and apparently no recommendation sent to the province’s environment minister.
County council debated what to do on Thursday and decided not to change how lake levels are being managed for now while the stormwater plan issue remains unresolved.
“We decided to stay the course because two things: we’ve got two different community groups who have different opinions and then we have the Blackfalds stormwater management plan that has been held up with (now-Alberta Environment and Protected Places) for two years…” said Reeve Barb Shepherd.
“It’s been two years and we ourselves have contacted (Alberta Environment) and there’s been no decision made and they don’t know when there’s going to be a decision made.”
Once a decision is made, the county intends to set up a lake management committee that would include local residents and representatives from Town of Blackfalds and Lacombe County. Similar committees are in place for Gull and Buffalo Lakes.
“We think that is the best way to handle it.”
Alexander calls council’s decision “very disappointing,” adding council “chose not to accept responsibility for the damage their dam on Lacombe Lake is causing.
“They said that the stormwater appeal issue has not been resolved. However, the stormwater issue is irrelevant to the County’s responsibility to maintain the lake level at a level that will not harm the lake.”