Are our lakes and wetlands safe?
I write as a concerned resident, parent and ecologist. My concern is for the wetlands south of the city, including Williamson Lake. These wetlands are at the foot, and therefore in the drainage path, of the new developments at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. RMR’s plans include significant land use changes in this catchment, such as large paved areas for car parking, several housing developments with associated hard surfaces, and a golf course with significantly different vegetation and inputs than that which is currently there. All these land use changes can cause huge cascade effects in this type of environment, potentially destroying the area as a refuge for wildlife (including the blue listed painted turtle) and as the best little swimming area in town.
Paved or otherwise impermeable areas in car parks (a 1000 car park is planned) or around houses can alter the absorption of water into the ground, either reducing the amount of ground water welling up in springs lower down or causing surface flooding during times of heavy rainfall. They can also cause the accumulation of ground pollutants, such as road surface grime and oil, into local waterways. The effects of this concentration can be exacerbated by the concentration over time that happens because the snow holds the surface water (and pollutants) until spring, and then lets it all go in one big grimy load, making it hard for a stressed environment to cope and leaving a grimy polluted swimming beach for the summer.
The development of a golf course could cause a significant increase in the nutrient load of water entering the lake and wetlands. These extra nutrients can cause a cascade of effects known as eutrophication leading to algal blooms in Williamson Lake and beyond. Algal blooms typically reduce oxygen in the water killing fish and other wildlife. Lack of oxygen in the water also causes a thick black sulphurous sludge on the bottom of the waterway from the action of anaerobic organisms. Blooms may also be of species of algae which are toxic to both humans and wildlife. In addition, eutrophication may cause an extra contribution to greenhouse gas production. Finally, golf courses typically use large quantities of cosmetic pesticides and there is little doubt that these pesticides will make their way into the lake and wetlands.
Williamson Lake is a small and sluggish water body; it doesn’t flush out very quickly at all. If we allow the developments at RMR to affect the nutrient balance and pollution levels entering the lake our lovely town swimming area will be destroyed, our children will be exposed to toxic chemicals and our wildlife will suffer. It is incredibly difficult to resolve these problems once they are in the system, but not so hard to avoid them.
These days there are golf courses which are designed and implemented in environmentally friendly ways, pesticide and fertiliser free (for more information seewww.acspgolf.auduboninternational.org ) and there are ways to mitigate run off problems such as green paving, environmentally sensitive planting and even settling ponds to catch pollutants.
These are issues which need to be thought about by the residents of Revelstoke before we surrender our lake and wetlands to the fate of so many other damaged waterways. We don’t have to do without our tourist attraction, after all the resort is a great asset to the city, but our environment doesn’t have to suffer either. We need to make it known to the town planners and the developers that we won’t take the destruction of our favourite areas lying down.
If you want to make your feelings about this issue known then contact either the Mayor of Revelstoke, Mayor Raven at email@example.com; the Director of Parks and Recreation, Allan Chell at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Rod Kessler of RMR at email@example.com.
Sue Davies, MSc