M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notebook

Feb. 14, 2018 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Watershed plan presented

Council spent a good hour hearing the highlights of the new watershed management plan of the Lesser Slave Watershed Council – presented by its ED Meghan Payne. It is a guidance and planning tool, Payne said right off the bat – not a regulatory document. The hope is obviously that municipalities and others will pay attention to it and adopt its recommendations about how to reduce the negative impact of human activity on the lake and the streams that feed it.
There’s definitely room for improvement.
“Minimum standards aren’t working,” Payne said, with specific regard to roads in the Swan Hills. “There’s a ton of sediment coming down that river (the Swan).”
Oddly enough, studies show that 17 per cent of sediment on the lake-bottom (Lesser Slave) came from the air, Payne said.
Payne touched on the river dredging issue, acknowledging river flow is a provincial, not a municipal responsibility. However, “I don’t think anything’s going to happen until the river freezes off and there’s a downstream emergency.”
The Integrated Watershed Management Plan will be posted on the LSWC website.

Athabasca Watershed Council

Marie Breiner, outreach worker for the Athabasca Watershed Council, also presented to council, although much more briefly.
“We have a different challenge in that many councils don’t even know we exist,” she said.
Part of the reason for that, Breiner went on to say, is the huge size of the watershed, running from Jasper Park to Lake Athabasca in the extreme northeast of the province. Putting together an integrated watershed management plan, with the required consultations, becomes a huge challenge under those circumstances. It’s 24 per cent of Alberta’s land and five per cent of its population, she said.
One interesting tidbit in Breiner’s presentation was the news that there are two proposals for power-generation projects in the Athabasca River.

Body cameras

Council caught up with what’s already in practice and approved a policy on body cams for M.D. peace officers.
“They’ve been wearing them for several years now,” said CAO Allan Winarski. “We need a policy in place.”
Councillor Brad Pearson asked if the officers have a duty to inform the public that the recorder is on.
They don’t, Winarski said, but at a vehicle stop, “the public can assume the thing is turned on. At the coffee shop you can assume it’s not turned on.”
The camera records both video and audio.

FireSmart course development

Council gave its blessing to the idea of hiring Northern Lakes College to develop a couple of training courses on FireSmart. This is actually a Regional Tri-Council decision, but as with most tri-council matters, it gets run by the individual councils first.
According to information in council’s agenda package, the FireSmart Committee has been getting lots of requests for advice on how to handle what are called ‘wildland-urban interface’ issues with regard to wildfire risk reduction. Developing these courses is seen as a way to package the local expertise into a useful form. It will cost some money to do, but “There’s a good chance it won’t take long to recover our money,” said reeve Murray Kerik.

Caribou range planning

Reeve Kerik spoke of a consultation session on caribou range planning that’s being held in Whitecourt.
“I’m going,” he said. “The question is who wants to go with me.”
Councillor Esau said he’d go.
Council passed a motion approving the attendance of those two members.

FCSS grants

Council considered and approved three applications for funding via the M.D.’s Family and Community Support Services program. One was from the Gentle Ben Care Society for $15,715; one was from the Smith nursery school for $8,420 and the third was from the Flatbush nursery school for $4,000.
“Nothing new here,” said Peggy Laing, presenting the report for council.
Councillor Pearson noted that these, plus funding commitments and program expenses already in place, don’t leave much in the FCSS budget for the rest of the year.
“Only $7,500 left for new things,” he said.
“Yes,” said Laing, “but no one’s come forward.”

Board reports

Community Futures Tawatinaw – councillor Sandra Melzer reported that a program for young entrepreneurs is being developed.
“It’s geared toward young kids – what they’re going to need to run a business.”
Library board – councillor Becky Peiffer said attendance has been very good at after-school programs at the library in Slave Lake. The archive is being developed and a storyteller is being brought in.
At the Smith Library, a movie night program has been started and its first one was well received.
Two seats on the board have been filled, Peiffer said. Charlotte Measor and Graham McCullough are the new members.
Economic Development – Reeve Kerik said he advised the board that the Lesser Slave region has to brand itself, in order to become a ‘destination.’
“We’ve got to be recognized,” he said.
Furthermore, people want guided experiences. They’ve got money and they want to spend it.
Athabasca Watershed Council – councillor Esau said the majority of the board members are prone to chasing “the pie in the sky. They don’t want to do it one step at a time.”
One thing Esau brought back from the recent meeting of the group was information about a device called a ‘pond leveler,’ which is more or less a culvert through a beaver dam. It might be worth trying in the M.D., he said.

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