Water, water everywhere: but is it safe?

Residents of Loon Lake wonder how safe the water is, and how they can find out

Summer has arrived, according to the calendar, and the warm sun sure is appreciated. The long hours of light and the warm soil have brought about fast growth in some of the summer crops, and I am pleased to see the zucchini quickly spreading out over the compost pile.

The air is so fragrant with a variety of different scents from plants and grasses—I can understand why people would wish to bottle up such a fragrance; it sure beats even the most expensive French perfume or exotic rose.

Water has been on the minds of Loon Lake Road residents a lot this month. The high water in Loon Lake, Loon Creek, and the Bonaparte River has resulted in considerable erosion along the shore and some damage to docks, as well as to ranchers’ irrigation systems and fields. The sudden and considerable rise in the water levels in the Bonaparte left ranchers scrambling to move their livestock to higher ground and to secure their pumps and irrigation equipment.

Water is coming out of Loon Lake into Loon Creek at flood levels, well above the usual high water line, and clearly there is no beaver dam or other impediment to the outflow of water from the lake. As the month progressed and the waters lowered, some damage was repaired; however other areas that were washed away can’t be brought back.

There have been considerable amounts of green algae in the water of the lake—it’s even turned Loon Creek a soupy green—and questions have been raised about the safety of the water for domestic use and irrigating food crops. Many residents have small patches of lettuce, herbs, and salad greens which are watered from Loon Lake.

Further down along the Bonaparte, water originating from Loon Lake is used by ranchers to irrigate their fields, which include food crops intended for human consumption.

It is likely there is no health danger at this time, but it sure would be good to know if some authority is monitoring the water quality and will make the results available to the public. Those who argue that there are still living fish in the lake, and therefore there are no water quality issues, are only exposing their lack of awareness and concern for future generations.

Access to clean drinkable water is shifting from something the people in Canada take for granted to a status symbol, affordable only by the rich and privileged. We have polluted and abused our waterways and lakes and treat the ocean as a garbage dump—and yet humans do believe they are the cleverest species on earth. We spray with chemicals of all sorts and put pharmaceuticals down the drain that cause mutations in the living things that make their home in water. Water is life, and what humans are doing by destroying clean water could be termed collective suicide.

Our local area director for the TNRD, Sally Watson, held a town hall meeting here on June 26.  This was a welcome and positive move towards making local government more open and accessible to Loon Lake Road residents and property owners. The TNRD is our local government, yet it is difficult to find out who to contact when an issue arises.

Issues of interest and concern raised at the meeting included the water levels and water quality in Loon Lake and Loon Creek, and recent decisions made without giving residents and property owners an opportunity to be informed and to respond before a decision was made by the TNRD Board.

The focus of the meeting was funding and operation of the volunteer fire dept.  Concern was expressed about the 76% property tax increase for the grant-in-aid given to the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Fighter Association without prior consultation with the taxpayers. The LLVFA Chief presented an overview of expenditures planned for 2014 and answered questions about equipment and needs.

The proposal to locate and equip a second fire hall at the far eastern end (30 km) of Loon Lake Road/Stevens Road, on park land, was touched on but has yet to be openly and fully discussed with all taxpayers and property owners. There was a large show of support for the volunteer fire department and people were pleased to receive some information on its operation.

In the near future discussions may begin to work out a new petition for taxpayer funding of the fire department, and all residents and property owners should make known their views.

Director Watson has indicated she has difficulty finding a means to communicate with Loon Lake residents and property owners. She is setting up an electronic mailing list for those who wish to be kept informed. This is a good thing, as local residents should have access to more information and to our local government to find out what is happening and what kind of laws, bylaws, regulations, and so forth are being discussed that will affect them and their properties.

If you want to be on the list contact Director Watson at swatson@tnrd.ca , or by phone at (250) 395-0278. You can also write to her at the TNRD.

I note with a smile that one property owner along Loon Lake Road has applied for a zoning variance to permit a licensed marijuana growing facility to be established on their property.

I smile because last fall the TNRD rushed through a zoning bylaw amendment to prohibit such a facility being established on 10 acres parcels of agricultural land without notifying those land owners who were affected.

Loon Lake Road needs more economic activity and a regulated, licensed facility would be a start toward improving economic conditions. A lot more should be done to support local agriculture and tourism, as well as the many talented crafters who need more outlets to sell their production. Loon Lake Road needs to shake off its retired old folks/vacation party place/trailer park image and start making plans for a future with a more diverse character, while working to preserve the wonderful natural qualities that have attracted people to settle here. Homes along the lake continue to spring up, and in many cases they are now on smaller lots and closer together than in the city.

In fact there are now more than 400 residential units along Loon Lake Road and side roads, and the number increases when you count all the resort cabins, motor homes, and trailers. Trailers, motor homes, and other vehicles are being parked on every nearly flat space available, and backhoes are digging up the side hills to make more flat spaces.Open space and natural areas are being lost, and this loss has resulted in the lowering of the landscape values and the water quality in Loon Lake.

One of the attractions of country living for me is the relative absence of intrusive noise from vehicles, machinery, and other urban sources. I enjoy listening to the songs of birds like the robins and the flycatchers, even at 4 a.m. when the robin so cheerfully welcomes a new day. The “beep, beep” of the little nuthatches have become background noise only noticed when it isn’t there, and the friendly chirp of the hummingbird is part of the summer scene.

However, this week the incessant and loud honking and cawing of the raven family following the young out of the nest and on the wing  draws attention to the fact that some bird sounds are not particularly pleasant to the ear. Eagles, ravens, and even the great blue heron all make calls that are more strident than pleasant, yet the call of the osprey is quite striking and thrilling.

Earlier, the Clark’s nutcracker young had fledged and I was impressed with how very quiet they were with the young; even when the young ones were sitting on a branch calling for food.

Barbara Hendricks

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