Ice hut regulation demanded

Lobbying efforts have been stepped up for a provincewide mandatory ice fishing hut registration program.

Lobbying efforts have been stepped up for a provincewide mandatory ice fishing hut registration program.

Sylvan Lake Management Committee has fired off a letter to Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Robin Campbell urging the province to craft ice hut regulations, including penalties for rule breakers.

The committee also wants the province to boost staff time and resources for the Respect our Lakes program, which was rolled out in 2011 and has had much success in reducing the number of ice fishing huts left abandoned on Sylvan and Gull Lakes when the season ends in the spring.

In April 2011, 25 huts were left on Sylvan Lake, creating potential environmental and boating hazards. To tackle the problem, a voluntary registry and public information campaign was introduced the following winter and 14 people signed up. Only five huts were left on the lake the following spring, which the committee touted as proof of the program’s value.

Despite the initiative’s success, the province has proven non-committal to undertaking a provincewide program, said Keith Stephenson, a Lacombe County councillor and chair of the Sylvan Lake Management Committee. Representatives for Red Deer County, Town of Sylvan Lake and five summer villages are also on the committee.

Further concerns were raised about the province’s support for the program this spring when the committee was told initially that the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Department was too short staffed to help remove the huts as it had done in previous years.

After a few frantic phone calls, four Fish and Wildlife staff from Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer were dispatched to help remove three huts left on Sylvan Lake before the ice became too unsafe. However, two huts were stranded on Gull Lake.

“These huts will surely become a pollution issue in Gull Lake,” writes Stephenson.

He said in an interview that the eight communities around the lake that are members of the committee want to keep the ice hut registration idea on the front burner.

“We’re just going to keep pressing until we get it,” he said.

“We just want to make sure water quality is maintained — on not just Sylvan Lake but all the lakes in Alberta — and to reduce the footprint of people.”

Alberta ESRD spokesperson Carrie Sancartier said the department had lost several staffers with the training to remove the huts this spring.

“We expect ice safety training to begin before the end of the next ice fishing season.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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