The Capital Regional District (CRD) has lifted the blue-green algae alert at Elk/Beaver Lake.
After collected water samples indicated that the cyanotoxins were too low to be detected, the CRD consulted Island Health and concluded that the algae bloom had ended. Beach-goers are still advised to be on the lookout for the tell-tale blue-green scum on the lake surface as it would indicate a new bloom. The CRD is also reminding park users that ingesting blue-green algae can cause headaches and stomach pain in humans, but can be lethal for dogs.
The algae alert being lifted doesn’t mean water quality issues are over. During a meeting Wednesday, the CRD parks and environment committee agreed to ask the federal and provincial governments and other interested parties for help improving water quality by covering at least half the costs of remediation.
Members were presented with a report regarding that recommends installing a $1.4 million aeration system to increase oxygen in the deep parts of the lake.
“If action is not taken to remediate Elk/Beaver Lake, declining water quality will lead to increasing cyanotoxin blooms that diminish the habitat value of the lake,” stated the report. “In extreme, but increasingly common cases throughout the world, cyanobacteria blooms have decimated fish and wildlife populations, sometimes overnight, and without warning.”
The report recommends installing a Side Stream Supersaturation aeration system to address the water quality issues and a watershed management plan to deal with the external sources of nutrients that flow into the lake. The initial $1.4 million cost would be followed by $100,000 per year for management. The report recommended seeking financial support from the provincial and the federal governments for funding as both governments are responsible for parts of the lake. The water and sediments in the lake are owned by the province and the federal government is responsible for everything on the surface of the water.
In the meeting, Saanich Coun. Colin Plant pointed out that requiring the governments to cover half the costs may prevent the work from getting done if grants aren’t acquired. He asked the committee to consider removing the 50 per cent capital funds requirement.
“I don’t want to give the sense that this is not going to happen if we don’t get the grants,” he said. Plant asked the committee to agree to send the message to the public that the CRD will move forward with the lake remediation because it’s necessary.
Other board members opposed Plant’s motion as they felt that removing the 50 per cent requirement would remove the incentive for upper levels of government to contribute.
“To me, we need to be clear that we need the senior levels of government to come to the table with us on that, and that we’re prepared to fund 50 per cent if they’re prepared to help us,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech.
Langford Coun. Lanny Seaton pointed out that an aerator was implemented in Langford Lake and has been effective in managing algae blooms. He also noted that the fishing licence fees are being put towards the cost of the device until it is paid off. Seaton noted this could be an option at Elk/Beaver Laker but said that the upper levels of government should still contribute as they own the lake.
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt suggested revisiting the question of the CRD paying for the remediation alone if grants are not received.
The committee agreed to present the plan to the full CRD board for approval. If the plan is passed, the CRD would begin to seek external funding.
The next CRD board meeting is Sept. 11.