‘Hands off the lake’

Don’t mess with Mother Nature.

Don’t mess with Mother Nature.

That’s the message from Lacombe County council, which reviewed an Alberta Environment-commissioned report on Sylvan Lake’s record water levels.

The study outlines a variety of options ranging from a $1.7-million dam-like water control structure to taking a much more hands-off approach.

Lake levels have reached their highest point since 1918. Property owners are seeing their shorelines eroded and the popular beach in Sylvan Lake Provincial Park has all but disappeared.

The trend towards higher water levels began in the mid-1960s and peaked last year, largely due to a cool wet spring, which reduced evaporation, responsible for 95 per cent of water loss.

The rest drains from the lake through the Sylvan Creek outlet.

That creek has been the focus of options, including the water control structure with stop logs, a $100,000 project to reduce the lake’s sill and improve the outlet creek to improve flow or a $50,000 alternative to straighten out the creek to move more water through it.

Another alternative — approved by council on Thursday — is to not meddle with the creek, but to adjust to high water levels by ensuring environmental and municipal reserves are taken by the county when new developments occur to provide a buffer zone.

Coun. Brenda Knight said municipalities should not try to tinker with lake levels.

“Mother Nature knows best. Leave her alone — she’s got the ultimate power.”

Coun. Paula Law said she’s not in favour of making any changes to outflow without knowing what the downstream impact will be and whether it will increase the flooding risk for landowners.

The county should make it clear to the Sylvan Lake Management Committee that it is not in favour of spending money to try to change natural patterns, said Coun. Rod McDermand.

The management committee includes Lacombe and Red Deer counties and Town of Sylvan Lake. The committee reviewed the Alberta Environment report last month and decided it needed more information on the potential impacts of tinkering with lake outflows before making a decision on options.

The group meets next on Dec. 5.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com