The Scope and Mandate of LIAMS.
The five "W's" of the Lake Isle Aquatic Management Society
WHO: any individual with an interest in the water quality of Lake Isle.
WHAT: raising a united voice in approaching issues (mainly the vegetative growth) that impact the water quality of Lake Isle.
WHERE: Lake Isle, to date the shoreline areas around the lake.
WHEN: Annual Meeting as advertised in local newsletters and papers. Meetings for Board of Directors and area representatives as deemed necessary for permit directives and applications.
WHY: In 2000, a group of individuals gathered to voice their concerns regarding the water quality in Lake Isle. The highlighted issue that came from that meeting was the vegetation growth within the lake. Within weeks of that meeting the Lake Isle Aquatic Management Society (LIAMS) was formed. LIAMS objective was to have the permit process and evaluation applied to Lake Isle as a whole, not numerous individual areas. The objective and process of one voice on behalf of many has made it much less complicated to have the vegetation removed. Because of the involvement and changes within the the government departments (Department of Fish and Oceans (DFO) and Alberta Environment) it is time consuming and costly for anyone to obtain the required authorizations to have the lake vegetation removed around their shoreline. At one time a permit was not required or the knowledge that one was necessary was overlooked with a blind eye. Today, by law, both provincially and federally, authorizations are required and the fines for not having them are much more than a slap on the wrist.
There are two permits necessary, one from each of the government departments. Once application are made, the departments come out and determine the positive and negative results of the removal of (weeds) vegetation. Habitat areas for fish and foul, buffer zones for flora and fauna are located. Once this is established, the permit process continues to the next step that requires an advertisement of intent, under the Government Water Act, to be placed in local papers, so the public may voice their concerns in this action. The harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat is determined and authorization through subsection 35(2) of the fisheries act may be given. Environmental impacts of these undertakings are reviewed by DFO in accordance with the Canadian Environment Assessment Act. Once this process is complete, the permits are granted with very strict and enforceable guidelines and recommendations, which are governed by law. All costs are incurred by the applicant.
Every application for permits must go through this process. Therefore, LIAMS, which includes 22 communities and individual land owners, makes a single application on behalf of all its members.
And HOW: The guidelines are very stringent. It is because of the restrictions outlined on the authorizations, that LIAMS has contracted a harvester that is able to fulfill all these requirements. DFO and Alberta Environment are constantly monitoring Lake Isle, not only to observe permit work, but to see if there are other activities on our lake being performed unlawfully. The law states that cutting of any lake vegetation can only be done between July 1st and September 30th of any given year, and that only one cut to any permitted area be allowed. The cut can not be more than one meter in depth below the surface of the water and at no time can it disturb the lakebed. Only a four meter wide cut to one side of a dock or pier, with a four meter channel out to open water be allowed. Removal of bulrushes (cattails) or reeds is NOT permitted at any time. All cut vegetation must be removed immediately away from the lake area so that no nutrients from the cut material can leach back into the water. Shorelines should include a buffer zone of untouched natural area, not only to protect the waterline from erosion, but also to provide natures own resources to remain for fish habitat and bird nesting sites. LIAMS have contracted a harvester that cuts, removes and trucks away the vegetation from the lake. LIAMS has had special consideration in the variance of some of these restrictions that are in strict accordance for Lake Isle only and are not the basis of change for any other lake or area not covered by the LIAMS permit. Therefore if not a member of LIAMS, these changes will not apply. In 2004, after much debate and study in conjunction with all stakeholders, LIAMS was permitted to have harvested a four meter cut on two sides of a dock or pier. The permit also included swim areas and boat launches. The size restrictions were based on total area of each harvested area and the number of people using these areas. Total cut shoreline area guidelines have to be monitored and variance on our part is not allowed. (Although it is the best policy and practice to have the contracted harvester provide the work from start to finish, it does not mean that if finances dictate otherwise, this permit work can not be completed.) Manual cutting and total removal of cut vegetation is allowed, as long as all the guidelines are followed. The lakebed can not be disturbed, therefore, root removal is not an option. Floating vegetation may be removed at any time during the growth season. Floating masses of vegetation are not necessarily caused by cutting. There are environmental and climatic reasons that cause floating vegetation.
A membership automatically includes your area on the yearly permit and is necessary for any lake vegetation to be removed. Each area is mapped as to the cut requested and is based on habitat study and protection. Each year a small membership fee ($10.00 yr.) is paid to LIAMS. This fee is put towards the operation of the society. It also helps with the cost that is incurred for larger channel areas and catch basin which decrease the flow of the lake. Unfortunately funding and the government guidelines does not allow the society to “harvest” all areas of concern. The cost of each harvested area is the responsibility of the landowner requesting the harvest be done. Each area representative collects the yearly memberships and moneys required to complete the harvesting. Each areas cost varies depending on the number of hours required to cut each area and if there are common boat launches and swim areas, this cost must be covered and collected for as well.
Each of us have our own reasons for wanting Lake Isle to remain a viable body of water. It is for all the individual reasons that we have united as a group. We question over and over the five “W's” as to the responsibility of our lake. By taking on this project LIAMS has only touched on a small scale the concerns of the water quality of Lake Isle. LIAMS under no means can deal with all the factors relating to how nature, cottagers, farmers and all public and private users have an impact on the condition of the lake. In working with the agencies involved, we are hoping that by doing our part, although small, the future of this lake is made more viable. In the future, we hope that it may be said that the LIAMS membership played a part in maintaining a usable source of nature, whether it be for recreational, or the sheer beauty that lies before us. Let's work together and just maybe at some point in time, all the stakeholders of our lake will come together and do their part to keep Lake Isle a precious natural resource.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held on a date, time and location determined by the Board of Directors. The meeting date/time/location is published in local newspapers at least one month prior to the AGM.
Written and Submitted by Sandi Benford
Photo courtesy of Bill Benford