The Summer Village of Birchcliff has invited public comment on its review of several clauses of its land use bylaw that controls the size of structures and impermeable surfaces on private property. The SLWSS has provided these recommendations on the specific and more general aspects of land use regulation on October 13:
COMMENTS ON BIRCHCLIFF LAND USE BYLAW – AMENDMENT BYLAW #199/17
Limitation on the Impermeable Surface Footprint and Water Balance Management
Several Amendment clauses deal with arbitrary limits on the size of impermeable structures. From the stewardship perspective they require no compensation by the owner to maintain the natural water balance. That is, expansion of the area of buildings and of impervious paved surfaces that prevent infiltration of precipitation and alter surface flow of water is not offset by a requirement to ensure that those actions do not increase storm and surface water runoff into Sylvan Lake with its nutrient load and contamination.
Management of nutrient transfer into Sylvan Lake is an imperative. It has a high community economic penalty for neglect.
The Bylaw would benefit from adoption of best urban land use and stewardship practices that maintain the water balance on each property. Low Impact Development land use practices should be specified and included in applications for approval of land use changes.
Recommendations for Changes to Other Clauses in the master Bylaw 170/13.
When the remainder of Land Use Bylaw 170/13 is reviewed by the Birchcliff Council, the SLWSS notes that:
Several Land Use Bylaw Clauses have potential to reduce the impact of the Birchcliff Summer Village on Sylvan Lake, if effectively applied.
Alberta aerial surveys have shown that the Birchcliff shoreline is Moderately to Highly Impaired. The traditional approvals process has obviously not achieved the Summer Village and watershed community’s environmental and esthetic goals of conserving and protecting the Birchcliff lakeshore riparian zone and the onshore landscape.
An annual cumulative effects statement by the Birchcliff Summer Village on the effect of its municipally-regulated land use changes would help to record and demonstrate leadership on public accountability for any impacts on the Sylvan Lake watershed over time.
The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) has released a series of reports that can be used to observe changes in land use and environmental variables.
See these web pages:
Human Footprint Map
Some of the map products will be useful for monitoring of the Sylvan Lake watershed, however the resolution is too low to monitor changes at the community or individual property scale.
The shoreline of Sylvan Lake is changing as McMansions replace those old time family summer cottages.
Architectural, environmental and aesthetic standards seem to be flexible. Living by Water principles that help property owners manage water balance and preserve the riparian zone with recommended low impact development and landscaping standards in some cases have apparently been eaten by the family dog.
One Birchcliff SV property owner has prepared for an invasion by sea as this section of re-contoured escarpment and shoreline now resembles Juno Beach in 1944:
Shoreline impairment surveys document the degradation of the naturally protective riparian zone around the perimeter of the lake.
Worms should be honorary people. Why? Because they work harder and contribute more to the environment and food supply than many real people do.
How do we know that? Because wormologists who study them have the facts to back up that claim.
This scientific article published in the Chemical and Engineering News, a weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society, explains why worms are so important to many processes in soils that contribute to crop growth and yields.
Worms help to release and activate nutrients that fertilize plants. While doing so they make those same nutrients more mobile and ready to diffuse into soil-saturating surface water. That partly explains how and why streams carry the plant nutrients N, P and K and other dissolved soil substances off the land and into Sylvan Lake. Worms are the recyclers.
The Stewardship Society’s water quality testing of tributaries and of the lake itself helps us monitor that runoff from diffuse land sources as we have reported in other SLWSS News articles.
Phytoplankton and aquatic plants in the lake then take over and remove those same nutrients as part of their seasonal life cycles and the lake’s food chain. That fortunate natural balance between nutrient input, released in part by those industrious worms, followed by the teamwork of lake organisms to remove them, has to continue or we’re in trouble. Cyanobacterial and algal blooms may occur if either process is adversely disrupted by land use change in the watershed.
That is why the SLWSS remains eternally vigilant, just like our Lighthouse brick slogan says.
A few millimetres of rain in the last week:
has increased the stormwater runoff from the Golf Course Creek catchment and transported another load of suspended solids into Sylvan Lake through Marina Bay:
View of the turbidity of Golf Course Creek on the south side of Highway 11A on July 16.
See more evidence of lake contamination in this photo album.
The flow through the Hwy 11A and Marina Bay culverts creates a brown plume of nutrient rich fine particles when it disperses in Marina Bay before discharging into Sylvan Lake. Reports suggest that, as in previous cases that we investigated in 2015, even 20 mm of rain can saturate and fluidize soil at construction sites up the watershed slope in the Town of Sylvan Lake (TSL), carry it in stormwater into Golf Course Creek, through the Sylvan Lake Golf and Country Club property, and into Marina Bay.
With more land development scheduled in the TSL’s annexed West Area, Golf Course Creek should expect to receive similar contamination in the future unless the best low impact development practices are applied as the SLWSS has recommended and contractors are required to comply with the Water Act and other Alberta environmental regulations.
Learn how to build a Geographic Information System for your Alberta watershed by using this starter kit from the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society.
The process involves downloading free software, acquiring georeferenced data for your land and lake area, and creating maps that will help you to understand and make better decisions about your watershed.
Click on the AltaLIS web page image to expand it/
The linked slideshow and notes explain the GIS software options, where to find and download GIS data and imagery, and some of the useful mapping functions that will help you to survey your environment, answer questions, and to add value to your GIS project.
Blayne West, environmental coordinator for Lacombe County and member of the board of directors of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society, will depart from Canada with her family and return to Australia where summer never ends.
Blayne helped to develop and manage Lacombe County’s environmental policy and practices and contributed to the Cumulative Effects Management System (CEMS) project of the Sylvan Lake Management Committee (SLMC). She compiled and edited the CEMS Phase 1 report and kept the CEMS Phase 2 report on track as a member of the SLMC’s Technical Advisory Team.
Her community outreach assignments included sitting in the sun on the Sylvan Lake beach promoting watershed awareness on the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance’s Lake Day in 2015.
Sylvan Lake itself thanks Blayne for her watershed leadership and environmental expertise and enthusiasm that allowed her county to become more sensitive and mellow on land use and land development issues that impact water quality and community values.