Property owners around Lacombe Lake said high water levels have destroyed much of the shoreline and water has crept up to surrounding trees, killing many of them. They asked Lacombe County to agree to adjust a weir to lower the lake level about a foot (30 centimetres). (Photo contributed)

Lacombe Lake water levels have become contentious

Two groups have opposite views on whether water level too high or too low

Two groups of Lacombe Lake users are at odds over how high the water level should be.

In May, representatives of the Lacombe Lake Watershed Stewardship Society came before Lacombe County council with concerns that falling lake levels threaten water quality and will promote algae and weed growth and hurt fish habitats.

The society wants the county to adjust a weir at the north end of the lake to allow more water to flow in from a nearby creek.

On Thursday, a group of residents with property on the lake took an opposite stance. They argued the lake is at historically high levels and is destroying the shoreline and killing trees. The water should be lowered at least a foot, they told council.

Robert Enns showed council a number of photos dating back to 1950, showing how much sandy shoreline had been lost, much of it in the last few years. Strips of sand that once lay along the water’s edge and now underwater and the lake has crept up to nearby trees, many of which are dead or dying.

“A lot of trees have died right next to the shore because their roots are in water,” said Enns.

The foreshore acts as an environmental reserve, protecting the lake from erosion and keeping topsoil from being washed into the water as is happening now, he said.

Lacombe Lake is a picturesque lake about three kilometres long and 500 metres wide between Blackfalds and Lacombe. At its deepest point it is only three metres deep. It serves as the home for the Central Alberta Rowing Club.

Enns dismissed suggestions that the lake level is too low.

“You can see from the pictures this is an outright misstatement.”

Residents agreed to allow the water level to rise to 2,813 feet above sea level in 2019 as part of what was meant to be a one-year trial weir. But that has proven to be a “disaster,” they say.

Enns said property owners wold accept that the lake be reduced to 2,812 feet, which was the maximum level formally agreed to by the County and the residents in 1969, just before the first weir was installed.

Anita Alexander, whose family has owned property on the lake for more than 60 years, said an area that was once used as a Scout campsite is now swampy and inaccessible.

In some areas, high water levels have created a “no-man’s land” that only beavers can get to, she said.

Losing the previous shoreline allows top soil, which acts as a “protective skin” that helps filter out weed-promoting nitrogen and phosphorous, to ooze into the lake.

“This lake is without protection.”

County council directed administration to review the situation and come back with a report on options at a future meeting.

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