Elk Lake water quality worse and needs action, report says

Steps must be taken to address deteriorating water quality in heavily used Elk/Beaver Lake, Capital Regional District staff say.

The lake system is subject to a number of stressors, and a water-quality plan should be developed to reduce algal blooms, manage weed growth, improve fish habitat and ensure continued recreational use, says a report going to the CRD’s environmental services committee on Wednesday.

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“I think it is important that we do put some focus on it,” said Susan Brice, chairwoman of the CRD parks committee.

“The water-quality deterioration is significant in, say, the last 20 years. So probably it is a good thing for us to get a plan of action so that we know exactly where we are with it.”

Staff are recommending the CRD hire a half-time co-ordinator for four years — at a cost, including operating funds, of $122,000 a year — to oversee the implementation of a watershed-management plan.

Several levels of government have a stake in the management of Elk/Beaver Lakes.

The province owns the lake bottom, sediments and water column. Transport Canada manages activities on the lake surface. The CRD is responsible for the surrounding park lands, while the watershed lies predominately within the District of Saanich, discharging through the Colquitz River into the Gorge Waterway. Island Health monitors the beach for recreational health concerns.

“A designated co-ordinator would bring these stakeholders together to develop and implement a watershed management plan for the lake system,” the report says.

The co-ordinator could also facilitate research with the University of Victoria and apply for grants.

The goals of the management plan include improved water quality and clarity, reduced weeds and higher dissolved oxygen concentrations, along with better habitat and increased biodiversity, the report says.

The plan could also explore the impact of the resident geese population and regional climate-change predictions, and explore management options.

CRD staff are also seeking $200,000 in additional funding to buy a weed harvester to replace the one that was retired in 2013, stating that reduction of lake weeds will improve water quality.

With an estimated 1.48 million visits in 2014 and 14,000 angler-days per year, Elk/Beaver Lake is the most heavily used park in the region.

In the past eight years, CRD Parks has invested about $740,000 in two key infrastructure initiatives: replacement of the Beaver Lake outflow dam and planning for the replacement of the filter beds and Beaver Beach washroom infrastructure.

Upgrades and infrastructure replacement will total about $1.55 million over the next four years.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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