Sylvan Lake plans for climate change

Sylvan Lake among Alberta municipalities to adopt a Climate Resilience Express Action Plan

Flooding and wind storms could occur more frequently as the climate changes, says an action plan developed for Sylvan Lake.

Last year, Town of Sylvan Lake was one of seven Alberta communities to develop a Climate Resilience Express Action Plan through a program funded by the federal and provincial governments and not-for-profit organizations.

Weather data shows that it is getting warmer in Central Alberta, and Sylvan Lake specifically. Records from 10 climate stations were averaged together and indicated that mean temperatures have risen 1.5 C from 1917 to 2016 in the area. Over the last 50 years, the warming rate has been speeding up.

As temperatures continue to rise, the area can expected to see more severe weather events. Longer, drier summers and warmer winters with more snow are projected.

Through workshops and other input 15 climate-related risks were identified for Sylvan Lake. Four were identified as requiring immediate action: windstorms, shoreline erosion and wildlife habitat stress, increased water temperatures and reduced water availability and overland flooding.

Town communications officer Joanne Gaudet said the plan provides a useful overview of climate change issues and will mesh well with other planning work.

The municipality has identified issues such as shoreline erosion and water quality in other plans and is already taking action. To improve environmental sustainability, rain barrel and toilet rebate programs are already in place and a compost program has just been launched.

“We’ve done our environmental master plan so we’ve identified all of our local assets and we’re aware of potential risks.

“It’s not like this is breaking news. It’s just a nice founding document for all of our future developments and projects moving forward to consider.”

A municipal sustainability plan is in the works that will address many of the issues identified in the resiliency project.

“Something like this resiliency plan is kind of driver to the (municipal sustainability plan).”

The action plan adopted by Sylvan Lake includes a number of measures in recognition of the challenges ahead. They include more monitoring of the lake, providing incentives to improve water conservation and developing a regional water supply system.

To address overland flooding, the plan suggests making landowners more aware of how to manage stormwater and to do more watershed management planning.

Given the danger of windstorms, more boater safety education is proposed along with a public alert system for lake users, perhaps using the lighthouse.

To limit shoreline erosion, more environmental reserves could be created along the edges of the lake and more done to make landowners and municipalities aware of the best wetland and shoreline management practices.

Not all of climate changes predicted impacts are negative, says the report. Warmer summers and winters could boost tourism.

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