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Westlock County won’t participate in Long Island Lake weir committee

It’s the “purview of the landowners,” says CAO
WES county spring 2020
Westlock County councillors won't take part in a committee about the dam on Long Island Lake that some say should be lowered to let water out of the flooded lake.

WESTLOCK - Westlock County councillors are saying ‘no’ to participating on a committee about the dam on Long Island Lake that some say should be lowered to let water out of the flooded lake.

The county received one invitation at the beginning of August from the Summer Village of Larkspur, and another from a resident Sept. 1 to have representatives on the committee.

“The exceedingly high water levels at Long Island Lake have raised the concerns of many people,” Dr. Guy Gokiert wrote in his letter of support for the summer village initiative.

“The current levels of water invading in the properties and beaches of many of the property owners around Long Island Lake have destroyed the recreational land available not only to the lake front owners, but also to the many hundreds of people who use the campgrounds and beaches of the lake.”

Reeve Lou Hall, however, felt that “this is an exceptional year and there’s a lot of people that have been impacted by the amount of water.”

“If flooding happens, then flooding happens,” she said at the county’s Sept. 8 meeting.

In fact, there wasn’t much discussion on this, apart from interim CAO Rick McDonald offering up the context in which this correspondence arrived.

“It’s an environment issue,” he said, before pointing out that some of the cabins built in Larkspur are “closer than the 30 metres that we would require” for land development. Still, he said, there isn’t much the county could do on this committee, but that it’s a good idea for the owners themselves.

“It would appear to administration that the formation of a committee is the purview of the land owners and the SV of Larkspur,” McDonald wrote in his report to council.

Larkspur representatives have appealed to councillors for support before on this same issue. Deputy mayor Gerry Keane asked councillors for “input to a mutual problem we are both experiencing” in July. He said then that one of the reasons Long Island Lake has caused significant flood damage in Larkspur is a dam built in 1955 that was meant to keep the water in.

Village representatives thought the dam should be lowered and were asking for council’s support.

This isn’t a problem just for the village, however. “The county have had one third of its registered beach under water and will possibly require approval from the province to add sand … once the levels go down, hopefully in the next three years,” wrote McDonald.

“This is a tracked cycle and that is why the county has followed legislated guidelines and not built 30 metres from the high water level, nothing else at the campground has been affected by the high water levels.”

Apart from the “flooding happens” perspective of council, McDonald also noted that the county doesn’t manage the dam, it only does some maintenance at the request of Ducks Unlimited, the current operators.

Andreea Resmerita,
Follow me on Twitter @andreea_res