Saturday, June 22, 2024

Years in the making: CRD moving forward with oxygen-generation system at Elk Lake


Good news for those who regularly frequent Elk Lake!

With the water quality becoming more of a persistent issue and after years of implementing new programs and raising funds, the CRD now has all of the tools required to move forward with installing a new oxygen-generation system at Elk Lake.

As of August 15th, as a part of the Elk Lake Oxygenator System Capital Project is slated to be completed by this fall, the diffuser system will be installed and testing will begin to push lake water quality initiatives across the finish line.

However, it is noted that this is only the beginning and freshwater quality control is complex — according to the report, the first 12-18 months after the oxygenator system is up and running may result in either an improvement or decrease in water quality because of the initial increase in oxygen.

To maintain their close watch on the water quality, there are two projects currently in place to continue improvements and address the high level of nutrients in the water that lead to blue-green algae blooms.

The two projects are as follows:

  • A Watershed Management Plan established in 2020 is meant to keep actions on track and continue long-term sustainability.
  • An In-Lake Remediation Plan which was designed to address internal sources of nutrients in Elk/Beaver Lake and was why the oxygenation system was recommended.

Although the decline in water quality was noted as early as 1960, the big changes began in 2016 when the Elk/Beaver Lake Initiative was established by the CRD in partnership with a newly formed Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) to improve water quality at the lake.

They confirmed that the main source of issues was due to high nutrient levels being introduced from both internal and external sources and began brainstorming different program implementations.

The main focus would be to reduce cyanobacteria blooms, manage invasive aquatic plant growth, and improve fish habitat. 

Related: Province and CRD purchase equipment to clean up Elk and Beaver Lakes

In 2021, a consultant (ARCADIS Canada Inc.) was retained to design an in-lake remediation system to address the water quality problem, and a direct oxygen diffuser system was recommended for the Elk Lake.

They were given an estimated capital cost of $1.4 million and ongoing operational costs of $100,000 to $150,000 annually for the oxygenation systems.

The province of BC contributed $750,000 to help buy the oxygenator for the In-Lake Remediation Plan and CRD would be responsible for the ongoing operational costs.

The oxygenation system will only be installed in Elk Lake for now as it is believed that the system will by proxy improve Beaver Lake as a result. 

“People in Saanich South and across B.C. come to Elk Lake to enjoy the outdoors, participate in sporting events, go fishing, spend time with family, and see what makes the park so special,” Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South said.

“Our government is so proud to have supported the oxygenator that will ensure people have access to safe, clean water for all these activities and more at Elk Lake for years to come.”

The Elk Lake Oxygenator System project is anticipated to be complete in the fall of 2023, with system testing and calibration continuing through 2024.

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