Plan to Attend the Society’s 18th Annual General Meeting on September 30.

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN for the Annual General Meeting of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society to be convened as follows:

Date: September 30, 2017, Saturday

Time: 10:30 AM

Place: The Meeting Room of the Sylvan Lake Municipal Library

The SLWSS AGM agenda includes:

  • Receive and adopt the Minutes from the 2016 AGM.
  • Receive reports from Directors on the affairs of the Society.
  • Receive an update on the State of the Watershed and Sylvan Lake.
  • Revise the bylaws of the Society.
  • Nominate and elect Directors.
  • Transact other business as may be properly brought before the meeting.

See news about the SLWSS at: http://slwss.org and https://slwssnews.com

 

Algal Blooms Reduce Property Values

The following case history for Lake Erie shows how algal blooms have reduced real estate values and recreation uses. So keep your plant nutrients on shore on your own private property. We don’t need Blue/Green algae in Sylvan Lake:

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In a new study, researchers at The Ohio State University estimate algal blooms at two Ohio lakes cost Ohio homeowners $152 million in lost property value over six years.

Meanwhile, a related study suggests that algae is driving anglers away from Lake Erie, causing fishing license sales to drop at least 10 percent every time a bloom reaches a moderate level of health risk. Based on those numbers, a computer model projects that a severe, summer-long bloom would cause up to $5.6 million in lost fishing revenue and associated expenditures by anglers.

Those are the main findings from the first two studies ever to put a precise dollar value on algae impact, both on Lake Erie and two recreational lakes in Ohio. One study appears in the journal Ecological Economics, and the other in the Journal of Environmental Management.

“Our biggest takeaway is that efforts to prevent and mitigate algal blooms have real, tangible benefits for Ohioans, including property values,” said Allen Klaiber, associate professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State.

In the first study, he and doctoral student David Wolf found that property values near two algae-infested lakes in the state’s interior fell $152 million from 2009 to 2015. Sale prices for homes within one third of a mile of a lake fell 11 to 17 percent during that time, while prices for lake-adjacent homes fell more than 22 percent.

A number of additional factors that influence property values were included in the analysis to ensure that the observed losses in property values were directly attributable to changes in water quality. For example, seasonal trends in the housing market, differences in structural characteristics across homes, and spatially varying provision of public services such as school quality were all controlled for in the analysis.

Most of the losses were felt by residents around Buckeye Lake, just east of Columbus. There, residents collectively lost $101 million in home sales over six years. Grand Lake St. Marys in northwest Ohio felt a smaller but still significant loss of $51 million.

Turning to Lake Erie, the researchers teamed with doctoral student Will Georgic to examine state revenue from sport fishing, which contributes to a $1.7 billion tourism industry. They found that once algae levels reach a “moderate” threshold as described by the World Health Organization (WHO), fishing license sales within 12 miles of Lake Erie dropped 10 to 13 percent.

The researchers further simulated what would happen if a severe algal bloom — similar in extent to the one experienced in 2011 which covered 45 percent of the lake — struck Lake Erie today. In that case, the researchers projected that as many as 3,600 fewer recreational fishing licenses would be sold, and as much as $5.6 million in associated fishing expenditure would be lost in just one summer.

The researchers hope their work will give policymakers the information they need to address algae prevention and cleanup. For instance, the state of Ohio has already invested $26 million to clean up Grand Lake St. Marys, but that amount equals only a little more than half of the lost property value there.

The two studies are part of an ongoing project to gauge not only the costs and benefits of fighting algae, but also the public’s algae tolerance: how much is too much, before people decide to buy homes or go fishing elsewhere?

As it turns out, people have a pretty low tolerance for algae. They devalued a lake property the moment the Ohio EPA announced that the water was unsafe to drink — the lowest warning level by WHO standards — even though the lakes included in the study were recreational and weren’t used for drinking water. They began fishing elsewhere after the warning level rose to “moderate” risk for incidental ingestion of the water. In both cases, higher algae levels didn’t seem to matter.

Wolf summed it up this way: “What seemed to matter most for property value was simply whether the algae levels were perceptible at all, not how bad they got after they became perceptible.”

“People make decisions based on their perceptions, and they get their strongest perception of algae at the beginning, when they first see news stories about the water being unsafe to drink,” Klaiber said. “And that poses a real challenge, because once a lake has an algae problem, it’s really difficult to clean it up enough to make the algae imperceptible again. That’s why we think the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ in regards to state policies would come from preventing algae levels from becoming perceptible in the first place.”

For fishing, aesthetics definitely plays a role. At the “moderate” algae level, water becomes noticeably cloudy. And then there’s the smell.

“People say it smells like sewage or rotten eggs,” Wolf said. “You can’t miss it.”

“These are things that would not contribute positively to the aesthetics of your walleye trip,” Klaiber added.

Ohio is one of the first states to compile this kind of data, because the Ohio EPA set up a special working group in 2008 to take precise measures of algal levels in Lake Erie and all major inland lakes.

Further, Ohio is a “public disclosure” state, meaning that financial information for all property transfers and sales are publicly available. Most Ohio county auditors posts the data on their websites, making it easy for anyone to access.

Klaiber and Wolf stressed that they didn’t collect any information about who owned the houses they studied — just the property values, sale or transfer prices for properties that changed hands during the study period, and the distance from those properties to the affected lakes.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Ohio State University. Original written by Pam Frost Gorder. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal References:

  1. David Wolf, Will Georgic, H. Allen Klaiber. Reeling in the damages: Harmful algal blooms’ impact on Lake Erie’s recreational fishing industryJournal of Environmental Management, 2017; 199: 148 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.05.031
  2. David Wolf, H. Allen Klaiber. Bloom and bust: Toxic algae’s impact on nearby property valuesEcological Economics, 2017; 135: 209 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.12.007

SW-Julie O-Hann

 

SLWSS monitoring of Cumulative Effects shows little change in key indicators

The value of property that surrounds water bodies can be sensitive to water quality and the condition of other natural assets. For that reason the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society (SLWSS) monitors lake water quality, land use changes, and property valuations over time.

Our report compiles in-watershed municipal data in a series of charts that are useful indicators for detection of land use changes and watershed health that are affected by creeping urbanization.

The total of all Equalized Assessments in the watershed has leveled out at about $3 billion. That is the property valuation at risk if Sylvan Lake water quality is impaired.

Equalized Assessments 2004-2016

Two population density ratios derived from Alberta Municipal Affairs data are useful reminders of changes in urbanization within the Sylvan Lake watershed. Growth in the number of dwellings per hectare has only been significant in the Town of Sylvan Lake (TSL) and the Summer Village of Jarvis Bay. Little change has occurred in land areas of Lacombe and Red Deer counties.

Dwellings per Ha

The TSL has also shown growth in population density that increases the  potential diffuse source impact of that urban area on the lake and watershed environment. Note that TSL’s population per hectare exceeds that of the Summer Villages and the two very low density rural counties.

Muni Pop per Ha

 

8 metres of precipitation fell on Sylvan Lake but the level hardly changed over 14 years!

The graphical record of precipitation as recorded by Alberta Agriculture for the two townships that contain the Sylvan Lake watershed, plus a decade of lake level data measured by Environment Canada’s National Hydrological Service, are compiled here.

The surface of the lake received about 8 metres of cumulative precipitation in the period 2000-2016:

90. AB Ag CUM PPTN 2000-2016

Between 2000:

1. ag.05CC003.2000-01-01.2000-12-31.1.1.0.0.0.0.e

and 2014:

16. ag.05CC003.2014-01-01.2014-12-31.1.1.0.0.0.0.e

the maximum summer lake level remained close to 937 metres above sea level.

Where did all that 336 million cubic metres of water go that fell directly onto the 42 square kilometres of lake surface during that 16 years?

That’s not even the whole story. Of the 864 million cubic metres of water that fell on the surrounding 108 square kilometres of watershed land area, about 20-30% of it entered the lake as flow in the tributaries and roadside ditches.

The whole lake contains just 420 cubic metres of water, so a lot of water has come and gone in 16 years. On average, the lake is just 10 metres deep.

The answers to that question about water loss are that a small amount overflowed into Outlet Creek when it used to drain through Cygnet Lake on its way to the Red Deer River and Saskatchewan. Some of it become groundwater by infiltration. Most of it just evaporated. It went away. It didn’t stay around long enough to be sold or taxed.

You can see that natural evaporation process in action if you watch the lake surface carefully. Just concentrate. The lake level charts above show that about 0.25 metre of water disappeared after July 1. That was about 2 millimetres per day!

 

Human noise pollution is disrupting parks and wild places

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This article by Rachel Buxton, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Colorado State University, is reprinted with permission from the website “The Conversation”. Click on this link for the original article:

https://theconversation.com/human-noise-pollution-is-disrupting-parks-and-wild-places-78074

As transportation networks expand and urban areas grow, noise from sources such as vehicle engines is spreading into remote places. Human-caused noise has consequences for wildlife, entire ecosystems and people. It reduces the ability to hear natural sounds, which can mean the difference between life and death for many animals, and degrade the calming effect that we feel when we spend time in wild places.

Protected areas in the United States, such as national parks and wildlife refuges, provide places for respite and recreation, and are essential for natural resource conservation. To understand how noise may be affecting these places, we need to measure all sounds and determine what fraction come from human activities.

In a recent study, our team used millions of hours of acoustic recordings and sophisticated models to measure human-caused noise in protected areas. We found that noise pollution doubled sound energy in many U.S. protected areas, and that noise was encroaching into the furthest reaches of remote areas.

Our approach can help protected area managers enhance recreation opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural sounds and protect sensitive species. These acoustic resources are important for our physical and emotional well-being, and are beautiful. Like outstanding scenery, pristine soundscapes where people can escape the clamor of everyday life deserve protection.

SLWSS Newsletter for July 2017

The Sylvan Lake watershed includes about 150 square kilometres of land and water that need the attention of the community.

 

State of the Watershed Update

Two summary reports compiled by the Alberta Lake Management Society included Sylvan Lake water quality data collected during our 2016 campaign. Because of the low nutrient concentrations, which are  indicators of the potential for blooms of nuisance algae, Sylvan Lake is now ranked as oligotrophic, the lowest category of lake productivity. As phyto- and zoo-plankton are a critical part of the lake’s food chain we will now watch the condition of aquatic life more closely.

Runoff, Precipitation and Water Balance in 2017

Spring runoff is recorded in this music video of Golf Course Creek peak flow. It is usually an important event for transferring sediment and mobile soil constituents off the land into the lake, however this year’s version did not last long. Cumulative precipitation in 2017 measured at the Alberta Agriculture Hespero weather station has been close to the long term average, as is the level of the lake. Those observations mean that the water balance of the watershed is close to the historic norm.

That is so even with the AEP-regulated emergency practice of pumping crown-owned water from Sylvan Lake to carry treated sewage lagoon effluent through Cygnet Lake and into the Red Deer River. The impact of pumping on the lake volume is small, less than 0.4%, and comparable to the rate of withdrawal caused by natural evaporation rate that typically occurs after July 1.

Monitoring Land Use Changes

We monitor changes in land use with special attention to the Sylvan Lake shoreline. We converted video from the SRD  2007 helicopter survey to a streamable format that can now be viewed easily even on a smartphone. We considered commissioning a new drone survey, however high resolution Google Earth imagery is available for free. We confirm and document those aerial and satellite observations with ground and lake-level investigations to update risk assessments. For example, here is the latest “Juno Beach” landscaping look and a surprising Blissful Beach slope failure.

The Flipside Project

Sometimes we even have fun. We ran a lake water sampling demonstration for elementary school kids at the Flipside after-school clubhouse and simulated an on-the-water campaign on a miniature scale.

Best Stewardship Practices for Boaters

Lake stewardship among boaters seems to fall well down their “to-do” list. Nevertheless, the diligent SLWSS Quiet Enjoyment Initiative team led by Kent Lyle continues to work with the watershed municipalities to educate boaters with brochures and signs about the need for respectful noise abatement. Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) has also urged boaters to Respect Our Lakes with new signage. Recreational lakes are receiving more AEP attention. The Society provided the Town of Sylvan Lake (TSL) with our opinion on subsidized boat launch access.

Risk to the Lake from the TSL West Area Development

On our watch list is the potential impact of the TSL’s new West Area Development on the quality and quantity of stormwater that runs off that land into Golf Course Creek then discharges into Sylvan Lake through Marina Bay. We evaluated the Water Balance methodology used by BC municipalities to model stormwater flows and concluded that the low probability of excessive lake contamination to cause chronic eutrophication did not justify a Society project expenditure of $10,000.

Wallpapering of the whole watershed with urban development would change the impact assessment considerably. A cumulative effects monitoring program is still required.

Our Contacts with Institutional Friends

We have generally reduced the intensity of relationships with municipalities and government agencies that do not add clear-cut benefits for the Society and our members.

There is a glimmer of hope that the refreshed inter-municipal Sylvan Lake Management Committee might reactivate the Cumulative Effects Management System project. Until it does so, we will remain on the sidelines, tracking changes and watershed health indicators.

Alberta government agencies remain preoccupied with their internal affairs and have not been inclined to offer hands-on assistance to community stewardship groups like ours. So we have reciprocated by inaction, except for sharing SLWSS accomplishments in this report to the 2017 Recreational Lakes community.

Send Us Your Watershed Concerns and Comments on SLWSS Direction and Initiatives

We invite your comments, input and tips on watershed events and practices that you believe increase the risk to the watershed and lake are invited. Smartphone photo evidence is valuable. We like to monitor natural and human risk factors and encourage whistle-blowing, although our QEI team might object to that.

Join the Society. Just $20.

Alberta Lake Management Society Reports on Sylvan Lake

The Alberta Lake Management Society (ALMS) has issued two summary reports on the condition of many of the recreational lakes in the province.

The LakeWatch summary of data from the standard protocol testing of Sylvan Lake showed the lake to be in a low-nutrient oligotrophic condition with favorable water quality for recreational use in 2016 as we also reported at the time.

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A separate ALMS LakeWatch report on a subset of five lakes in the Red Deer River watershed, compares Sylvan Lake to these popular destinations: Buffalo Lake, Burnstick Lake, Chestermere Lake, and Gull Lake.