Friday, 15 February 2008

Island Lake, A Lake In Distress

Island Lake is located near the western most boundary of Crowsnest Pass, west of Crowsnest Lake and close to the British Columbia border. It was a nice typical mountain lake, clean, clear, and cold. The lake, named after the island with the group of trees in the centre of the picture, was never a great fishery but it did provide a home for trout and whitefish that locals persued on occasion. It didn't take long, mind you, for Island Lake to begin deteriorating to the point of near death.

Highway 3 used to lead into BC along the north shore of the lake. In the 60's the Department of Highways decided to dissect the lake with a new wider road. The road was built right through the centre of the lake, touching the south side of the island. Even though they put a culvert through the highway to ensure a water supply to the southern part of the now divided lake the water does not circulate enough to keep the southern lake healthy. The south of the lake slowly started to lose its pristine mountain appearance and began turning into a large, shallow, ugly slough. The north side though did keep its appearance of health. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development did stock the lake with trout and even began to dump many of the brook trout brood stock from the Allison hatchery into the lake. Which made the icefisherman happy of course. Unfortunately the sad tale of the demise of, the once beautiful, lake is not over yet.

Crowsnest Creek flows from the mountains south of the lake and ran prettty much straight to a point just east of Island Lake. There it emptied into a huge hole with Island Lake just to the west and unfortunately CPR's tracks to the north and running at right angles to the creek. What would happen to this water was very interesting. When the lake was below a certain level the water from the creek flowed into the lake filling it. When the lake was full the creek flowed on to its final destination to the east, Crowsnest Lake.

The CPR did not like Crowsnest Creek and its path that was crucial to the health of a beautiful mountain lake. The creek when running high began to erode the rail bed. CPR had to do something to protect its track and that large, arrogant, uncompromising corporation did. They could have used ballast or formed some other sort of bulkhead to protect their rail at the point it was being eroded. That option must of been too simple for the godlike heads of CPR. They, befittingly, came up with a god like solution. Move the creek! After all the creek was the problem. The best way, in their superior way of thought, to deal with the problem would be to remove it.

CPR knew that in order to move a creek they would need the permission of that other all powerful Canadian entity, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Candian government department that is responsible for the protection of fish and fish habitat. Even the almighty CPR would not dare act with out their approval. DFO is the only government body that can impact the CPR. Well DFO did look at what CPR wanted to do. Somehow though their investigation failed to see the importance of Crowsnest Creek's route to the health of Island Lake. So the government department responsible for safeguarding fish and fish habitat allowed CPR to move Crowsnest Creek at least 500 yards to the east.

Water does not run uphill. Crowsnest Creek can no longer supply Island Lake with fresh water. One can see each year lower average water levels. Inspite of many efforts (mainly our local Fish and Game Association) to get action on the restoration of Island Lake no one seems willing to act.

The province of Alberta played a role. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans allowed this to happen. The CPR is responsible for this disaster and have realized a benefit to themselves because of it. These three bodies should be held accountable. These three bodies are responsible. These three bodies had better make up for their collective mistake and find a way to bring life back to Island Lake.

1 comment:

  1. Gary,

    This is a very interesting story and I'm quite interested in Island Lake relative to the draw-down pattern and shoreline vegetation. If this reaches you, and you're willing to share more knowledge please email me.

    Stewart Rood, Professor of Environmental Science, ULethbridge