Stettler county council decided to repair a boat launch at Buffalo Lake this fall if a municipal partner agrees to it. The decision was made at the Oct. 11 regular meeting of council.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy gave councillors a verbal report on the White Sands boat launch which has been in need of repair for some time.
She reminded councillors she previously asked them for permission to help repair the boat launch which is located in the southeast corner of the lake. Cassidy reported there are two boat launches at that site and both are unusable after the lake came in and moved the pillars.
The CAO stated county staff went to the area and did some cleaning up but require the provincial government’s permission to do work in the water. Cassidy added that the County of Stettler now has permission for temporary lake access while also having all concrete pillars ready to go.
However, the CAO stated there is some risk associated with this project and decided councillors should make the decision to proceed.
One of the issues is drought. “The lake is at an all-time low,” said Cassidy.
The CAO pointed out the County of Stettler has two options if the boat launch project is approved: repair the facility before winter sets in or wait until after spring break-up and the water body melts. Cassidy pointed out the risk with completing work this fall would be the possibility Buffalo Lake ice will damage the boat launch again.
The flip side of that, she noted, is if the work waits until next spring the project may have to wait until June 2024.
Coun. James Nibourg asked if the boat launches were shut down all summer to which Cassidy answered, “Yes.”
Nibourg asked where Buffalo Lake boaters have been launching their craft to which Cassidy responded probably Buffalo View Estates and Rochon Sands.
Nibourg stated Buffalo Lake residents have often said to him boat launch shutdowns are a major problem, yet he himself didn’t hear any complaints about the facility being closed.
The CAO stated county staff heard complaints about this issue while noting having White Sands out of commission put a lot of strain on other boat launches.
Coun. Justin Stevens observed demand for the boat launch seemed lower this year while there also seemed to be fewer boats on the lake than usual.
“Lot’s of people just didn’t want to risk it,” said Stevens, adding the drought has dropped Buffalo Lake’s level considerably. “The lake was low.”
During discussion councillors wanted to know how long Alberta Environment’s water access permit was valid for, with Director of Operations Joe McCulloch responding roughly next June.
Coun. Nibourg asked how much this project would cost, whether the County of Stettler had time to do it and whether the Summer Village of White Sands supported it.
The CAO answered councillors already approved up to $15,000 from the emergency recreation fund, all of the concrete material is ready to go while the county already has equipment in that area; as well, she noted the summer village already committed to reimbursing the county for half of the project’s cost once it’s completed.
Cassidy estimated the work would take three days to complete.
Reeve Larry Clarke wondered if the boat launch would remain unusable due to drought regardless of repair; McCulloch stated that even if the boat launch was fully repaired, there’s no guarantee it will be usable in 2024 due to drought.
“The risks are very apparent,” said McCulloch.
Coun. Ernie Gendre stated he was afraid lake ice would damage the boat launch after it’s repaired and preferred the work be done next spring.
Coun. Les Stulberg noted it seemed to him the threat of lake ice is an annual problem and even if the work is done next spring the boat launch faced the threat of damage regardless.
Coun. Stevens added he felt the ice threat was a bit exaggerated, as the boat launch in question hasn’t had problems in roughly seven to eight years.
He made a motion that the County of Stettler repair the boat launch this fall after consulting with the summer village, which was unanimously approved.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter