Public land dock storage plan at Buffalo Lake

An example of boat lifts and docks stored on County of Stettler Environmental Reserve land at Buffalo Lake. ECA Review/Submitted
Written by Stu Salkeld

The County of Stettler extended a trial program at Buffalo Lake that allowed dock owners to store their apparatus on public land over the winter. The development permit application for the storage program was approved at the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) regular board meeting Nov. 22.

The MPC is comprised of members of county council with the Nov. 22 meeting chaired by Coun. Justin Stevens.

Board members read the development permit application from the Rochon Sands Heights Community Association that would allow its registered members to store docking apparatus on the County of Stettler’s environmental reserve (ER) land over the winter.

Docking apparatus is removed from lakes for a number of reasons, including safety over the winter as many snowmobilers cross the lake once its frozen, or spring break-up’s effect on the docks, as moving blocks of ice could easily damage or destroy the apparatus.

County Planner Rich Fitzgerald gave board members a detailed report on the association’s application.

“The Rochon Sands Heights Community Association on behalf of its members has submitted a development permit application to provide for the private storage of lifts and docks in designated areas on environmental reserve lands,” stated the agenda memo.

Fitzgerald explained a somewhat similar development permit was approved about a year ago that allowed dock apparatus storage on ER, with that permit expiring last autumn.
“A condition of the development permit stipulated property owners with existing encroachments on reserve lands would not be granted approval to store a dock or lift on the ER,” stated Fitzgerald.

“The Rochon Sands Community Association has established a database consisting of all pertinent information including proof of $2,000,000 liability insurance for landowners with docks and/or lifts stored on the environmental reserve lands.

“The tracking system identifies the landowner of the items stored on the ER by attaching a ‘numbered tag’ to the item.

The information collected to date for the 2022-23 winter storage program consists of 17 landowners with items stored on the ER as submitted to the county with the development permit application.

The association anticipates one additional landowner will be entered in the database upon removal of the dock from the lake for a total of 18 participants in this year’s program as opposed to 25 participants last year.”

Fitzgerald stated county staff conducted a site inspection and while a few encroachments were discovered they were easily resolved. The report included no reasons to turn down the application and staff recommended it be approved with conditions.

A representative of the association, Jason Dillabough, appeared at the meeting, stating he had nothing to add and that the application came as a result of a community-driven effort.
Reeve Larry Clarke asked about dock owners other than the association’s members, noting the county has had problems in the past with people pulling docks up onto ER who apparently weren’t supposed to.

Fitzgerald noted only association members may pull their apparatus onto the county’s ER.

Coun. Stevens noted fewer people were expected to take advantage of this program than last year and asked if it was because of the marina condition.

Dillabough stated the marina was one reason, another was that some people found it easier to simply store apparatus on their own property.

It was noted the development permit is valid for one year. Fitzgerald added the permit term was tweaked so that apparatus cannot be left on ER over the summer months.

Board members unanimously approved the Rochon Sands Heights Community Association’s development permit application. to store dock apparatus on county ER.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.