The ice went off Columbia Lake recently, revealing the beautiful and complex ecosystem that we rely on for many things including; drinking water, recreation and wildlife habitat. The ecosystem isn’t the only complex thing about the lake, so are the jurisdictional issues. Local, First Nation, Provincial and Federal governments share dominion, and compliance questions can be difficult to navigate. Although the regulations regarding the placement of docks and buoys on the lake are clear, when it comes to enforcing those regulations, things can get confusing.
In the last few years, private docks and buoys have begun to increase on the western shoreline of Columbia Lake. While it may seem as though these structures have little to no impact on the wellbeing of the waterbody, they do in fact leave a mark. Buoys, when not weighted correctly, or when not removed during the winter, can drag across the bottom of the lake and cause damage to habitat. Docks can similarly disrupt habitat as they are placed on the foreshore – an area that many species call home. When abandoned, the materials used to build docks wash up on land and congest the shoreline. Debris from these docks include: Styrofoam; wood, some of which is treated or creosote soaked; tires; ropes; barrels; and more.
To maintain the health of Columbia Lake it is important that the necessary provincial and federal approvals/permits are obtained, local zoning bylaws are followed and the established construction guidelines (including using environmentally friendly materials) for docks and buoys are followed. To minimize negative impact, dock and buoys should be removed for the winter, and when no longer in use, they should be removed and properly disposed of, rather than just left along the shoreline.
We all can ask for implementation of the rules and regulations that do exist for the foreshore and open waters of our lakes. The Columbia Lake Stewardship Society (CLSS) has spoken to the Regional Distrcit of East Kootenay (RDEK) and the Provincial Government, even filing a complaint through Front Counter BC. No enforcement action was taken. The reasons cited were: uncertainty over what power different levels of government have, low priority issue, not enough enforcement personnel, and insufficient budget.
CLSS also expressed our concerns to our RDEK regional director, our local MLA, and our MP. They all expressed support for the health of the lake but were unable to provide help as to how to enforce existing regulations.
Last spring, the CLSS devoted 50 volunteer hours and removed two trailer loads of litter from only 1 km of shoreline. We estimate that it will take another 200 volunteer hours to clear the remainder of western shoreline. Another clean-up is scheduled for Sunday, April 28th. Find the details on our website at ColumbiaLakeSS.ca and come pitch in!
We realize that this is a complex issue and will require multi-level government cooperation to resolve. We can do our part by abiding by the regulations, helping with clean-up initiatives and asking our government leaders for enforcement. The health of our lakes requires us to work together, ensuring our impact is a positive one.
For more information on the bylaws and regulations applicable to buoys and docks visit our website – ColumbiaLakeSS.ca
Columbia Lake Stewardship Society