County council shuns watershed plan

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Big Lakes County has asked the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council to reconsider the municipality’s role in its Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP).

“We would have to hire more staff to implement the plan,” said reeve Ken Matthews at a meeting earlier in the year. “It would require our staff time and a cost to staff.”

The plan outlines the roles and responsibilities for watershed management of the various levels of government, industry, non-government organizations and agencies, landowners, leaseholders and residents in the watershed basin.

Pat Olansky, director of planning and development for the county, told council that the plan, “tasks municipalities with a significant amount of time and resources to implement.”

Councillors weren’t comfortable with that. One suggested using the plan as the basis for developing the county’s own plan.

The watershed council is asking municipalities to support the use of the IWMP as a guide for development decisions, and to implement strategies that would achieve its outcomes. The plan’s objective, generally speaking, is to maintain healthy water bodies in the Lesser Slave Lake basin.

Municipalities contributed to the plan; examples are the concerns expressed about maintaining minimum flows in the Lesser Slave River and in the area of riparian setbacks.

On that latter point, specific recommendations have been drafted to protect riparian areas and wetlands that suggest municipalities establish development setbacks of six metres, for pollution prevention.

A 30-metre setback is recommended for fish-bearing streams, or where riparian vegetation is dominated by trees.

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