Watershed Wanderings

By Shannon McGinty
Lake Windermere Ambassadors

In 2020 the Lake Windermere Ambassadors partnered with Living Lakes Canada to conduct a Foreshore Integrated Management Planning Project on Lake Windermere. This project re-created work done in 2006 for the Shoreline Habitat Inventory Mapping and examined changes that have occurred to the shorelines on Lake Windermere. While the names have changed, the overarching goals are the same; to identify areas of environmental importance and provide guidelines and recommendations to reduce the impacts and loss of high value areas.

Findings from the study indicated that just over half of Lake Windermere’s shoreline, 57 per cent (21,214 meters), is disturbed, a 1 per cent (369 meters) increase from 2006. While 1 per cent may not seem significant, Schleppe and McPherson explain how this could be death by 1,000 cuts with the “continued losses adding up over time, there is a potential to result in landscape-level changes to the surrounding ecosystem.” The main losses seen between 2006 and 2020 come from renovations and rebuilds on already existing property that remove the natural shoreline without any restoration efforts. The report makes many recommendations to mitigate this damage, including implementing a requirement to restore 25 per cent of the shoreline with any new development applications and creating a Greenspace Legacy Plan with a goal of maintaining natural shoreline for everyone to enjoy.

Compliment to the loss, 53 per cent (20,021 meters) of the Lake Windemere Foreshore was ranked as high or very high ecological value. These areas represented the wetlands, stream confluences, and important habitats that exist along Lake Windermere. Most of these areas fell within the Akisqnuk First Nation Reserve, Columbia Wetland Wildlife Management Area, and Lake Windermere Provincial Park. These high to very high ecological value areas benefit directly from those boaters who practice boating slow with no wake in sensitive areas (i.e. 30 meters from shore).

This study looked at specific structures or shoreline modifications and the changes since 2006. The below chart outlines these changes showing a 35 per cent increase in docks, 28 per cent increase in retaining walls, and 17 per cent increase in boat houses.

Schleppe and McPherson discussed how the increase in retaining walls had a substantial effect on the shoreline. They estimated that the length of retaining walls on the lake more than doubled, from 3,504 meters to 7,215 meters. The prevalence of retaining walls along the shoreline may be related to being a perceived lower cost and effort method of protection from erosion. Evidence in other parts of the province demonstrates this notion as false, as properties with hardened shorelines (i.e. retaining walls) tend to experience more significant damage than the soft shorelines during high flood events. As discussed in last month’s Watershed Wanderings, the best approach to protecting your waterfront property include using a soft re-naturalizing approach that takes advantage of natural vegetation and bioengineering.

The complete study and related documents can be found on our website at www.lakeambassadors.ca/documents. This article is the final Watershed Wanderings in our Shorelines & Run Off Deep Dive Series, articles “When the Ice Melts” and “Happy Garden, Healthy Lake” can be found on our website, or in the Pioneer eEditions Archive. Our next Deep Dive is into Water Based Recreation; we hope you will come along! Feel free to contribute to this conversation on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter @LakeAmbassadors.

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors would like to thank the Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Valley Community Foundation, Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, Real Estate Foundation, BC Gaming Grants, District of Invermere, Regional District of East Kootenay, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and community donors for supporting our 2021 programming.

Shannon McGinty, Program Coordinator for the Lake Windermere Ambassadors. Email her at [email protected] or call the office (250) 341-6898.