Lacombe Lake wildlife
The Town of Blackfalds’ project would see stormwater from new developments transported through underground pipelines to a stormwater management facility for treatment before being discharged into Lacombe Lake. Image credit: Lacombe Lake/Facebook.

An environmental law action group has joined an Alberta woman’s challenge of the province’s decision to greenlight stormwater draining into the ecologically diverse Lacombe Lake.

Ecojustice has joined Calgary resident Anita Alexander in a filing to the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board that aims to protect the lake’s habitat for nesting shorebirds and waterfowl, moose, porcupine, skunk, snakes and salamander from urban stormwater runoff like metals, salts, nutrients, grease and oil.

Lake Lacombe, a popular recreational site for canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and swimming, has been the backdrop for Alexander’s family since 1960.

“I’ve been swimming in Lacombe Lake for 60 years now,” Calgary resident, Alexander, explained in a statement. “In that time, I’ve watched moose swim across the lake, gazed at fireflies, listened to loons and watched them playing in the water. My mother, who is now 101, lived here until she was 100 years old. Places this special are few and far between. That’s why, together with Ecojustice, I am fighting to prevent stormwater from causing permanent and irreversible damage to this place that I love,” she added.

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The Town of Blackfalds developed its Northwest Area Master Stormwater Management Plan several years ago and had it approved in July 2020. The project would see stormwater from new developments transported through underground pipelines to a stormwater management facility for treatment before being discharged into Lacombe Lake, Whelp Brook and Wolf Creek. There will be a number of connected storm ponds and a small trunk line.

The Town’s consultants from Stantec presented the project plans during open houses in 2018.

“Environmental and water quality concerns have been heard and addressed through this process and will be managed responsibly moving forward,” stated Preston Weran, director of infrastructure and planning with the Town of Blackfalds, following an open house session.

Town of Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole has stated that “the project is important to the growth of our Town and our region,” and exceeds provincial environmental standards.

In its notice of appeal filing under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and the Water Act, Ecojustice states that the project could result in “permanent and irreversible changes to natural wetlands and watercourses that may permanently alter the water flow, water level and water quality of Lacombe Lake,” a 20-minute drive north of Red Deer, Alberta.

Critics of the projects have also suggested the stormwater plan could raise water levels by as much as 35% and increase temperatures in the lake, which is also a stopping point for migratory birds such as trumpeter swans.

A portion of the Trans Canada Trail runs along Lacombe Lake.

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