ROUSING THE RABBLE: What are the measures of a healthy lake?

Christina Lake residents should know what the measures of a healthy lake are because they are responsible for the lake's well-being.

Everyone who lives within Christina Lake should be able to answer to the question but lakeshore dwellers must be better informed than others because they are ultimately responsible for the lake’s well-being.

Lakeshore property owners must possess fundamental knowledge of what they must do to keep the water potable, and provide fish, wildlife and a myriad of plant species with a healthy environment. An ecologically healthy lakeshore includes communities of plants and wildlife that depend upon the natural water regimes that are characteristic of waterside environments called riparian areas.

Where humans have not altered these valuable ecosystems, riparian plant communities function as soil stabilizers and sediment filter when there is runoff from higher reaches. They also provide critical habitat for a wide variety of wild species.

The measures of a lake that may be approaching an unhealthy state are a preponderance of tidy, landscaped shorelines, retaining walls that have destroyed riparian areas, beaches created with hauled-in sand, algae bloom proliferating, muddy bottoms, and infestations of non-indigenous plants.

In contrast, a healthy lake has clear water for considerable depths, areas of gravel substrate for spawning, a variety of plants and shrubs along its shores, no harmful algae bloom, natural beaches and untidy shorelines. Property owners cannot plead ignorance of what is needed to maintain Christina Lake as a healthy ecosystem.

Everything they do, even in small measures, affects the lake. Building a retaining wall changes the lakeshore ecology drastically. Covering a natural pebble laden shoreline with hauled in sand destroys the natural habitat for a myriad of plants and animals.

Installing a wharf has an impact. Residents of Christina Lake are fortunate to have a superb source of information available on the lake and how to protect it at the Christina Lake Stewardship Association (CLSA) office in the community hall. There is none like it elsewhere in B.C.

The proposed Riparian Area Protection bylaw(s) for Christina Lake are intended to help protect riparian area habitat to maintain lake health for now and into the future. They are much less stringent than the provincial regulations that apply to the Okanagan, the lower mainland and Vancouver Island.

The efforts made by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) to adopt riparian area protection bylaw(s) that apply to streamside and lakeshore riparian areas should be welcomed rather than challenged. There is no evidence to support the claim that adopting riparian area protection bylaw(s) would lower property values.

An extensive report entitled Riparian Area Functions and Strategies for Management published by the National Academy Press in Washington, D.C. addresses everything imaginable on the need for protection and preservation of riparian areas across the U.S.

What the report says applies to any lake anywhere and it’s worth anyone’s time to read. The authors of the report recommend that restoration and protection of riparian functions on waterways should be a national goal and they recognize that patience and persistence is needed to eventually accomplish it.

Owners of waterfront properties must realize that they have invested in portion of an ecosystem, not just a piece of land that fronts on the lake and they must do their part in protecting it.

Suppose that after all the meetings and exchanges of information on the proposed riparian area protection bylaw(s) they are rejected. The responsibility for protection of the ecosystem would then fall solely to property owners. Are they willing and able to take on the task without support and assistance from the RDKB? Would it be worth the risk to find out?

– Roy Ronaghan is columnist for the Grand Forks Gazette