Alix village council heard a detailed presentation on keeping their lake healthy. The presentation was made virtually at the May 19 regular meeting of council.
The village council hosted Carolyn Ross, representative of Cows and Fish, a non-profit group that encourages and educates about riparian health across the province.
Ross stated in her introduction Cows and Fish has a goal of spreading awareness of riparian areas and their importance to the ecosystem.
She stated that Alberta’s resources are many, and don’t just include trees and oil. She said riparian areas, the ribbons that separate upland areas from aquatic bodies, aid in carbon storage, food production, water filtration, soil formation and tourism, just to name a few benefits.
Neglecting the importance of riparian areas can lead to a number of serious issues stated Ross, including compacted soil.
Illustrating her points with a number of photos and illustrations, Ross pointed out healthy riparian areas include abundant plant growth with lots of deep-rooted plants, as vegetation is key to riparian health.
She noted that erosion can be a serious problem to aquatic bodies, and erosion can pop up where there are shallow-root species.
Ross pointed out some less than ideal riparian areas, including places where vegetation was cleared away from shores.
As Cows and Fish spends much time working with the agriculture community across Alberta, Ross noted one message the organization likes to send out is when livestock are using an aquatic body, “…don’t stress it out.”
Looking at communities like Alix that are very close to an aquatic body, or cottage areas adjacent a lake, Ross stated a good strategy for keeping the lake healthy is to use plants native to that water body in yards and gardens.
The subject of beavers came up. Ross stated Canada’s national symbol can benefit an ecosystem in many ways, including water filtration and increased biodiversity, but they’ve also been known to cause problems such as road damage, culvert damage, cutting down trees and blocking water bodies.
She noted some studies are ongoing to see how beaver problems can be mitigated, such as using a wire wrapped around the bottom of trees to keep the animals from cutting them down.
Coun. Tim Besuijen stated that during this term of council he has heard a lot of Alix residents discuss riparian issues and he stated he could think of a few areas around the lake that could use some help.
Ross stated Cows and Fish could book an appointment with the village to come out and do an assessment of Alix Lake. The organization is booked up for 2021, though, and the organization usually charges $2,000 to $3,000 for an assessment.
Mayor Rob Fehr stated the local trail association is interested in having Alix Lake as close to natural as possible.
Fehr stated there are spots where pavement is very close to the lake, docks are in the water and lawn care techniques may be having an effect on the lake.
The mayor also wondered if the pandemic has resulted in more people using the lake for recreation and added that having Cows and Fish come have a look at Alix Lake seemed like a good idea.
Ross stated that education for residents living near the lake could be effective. She pointed out it always helps if the landowners are receptive to suggestions.
Besuijen stated he would like to get the entire community involved in riparian health and feels there is a lot of interest in the community to do so.
Councillors accepted the Cows and Fish presentation for information.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter