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Stewardship Showcase: Floating Islands?

Posted November 14, 2017 by LSC

Floating islands? Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. But you might be surprised to know you can actually find them in Alberta. Meet the group that is taking lake and watershed stewardship to the next level through their innovative approach to tackling environmental issues on a popular Alberta recreational lake.

More than 10 years ago, residents of Wizard Lake and the surrounding area came together with a shared concern for and commitment to preserving the lake’s water quality and to promote a safe environment for recreational use. In 2006, they formed the Wizard Lake Watershed & Lake Stewardship Association (WLWLSA) that is still going strong today.

“We offer educational programming and information to residents to promote how to be a good steward of the lake,” shares Blake Bartlett, Chair of the Association. “In everything we do, we work hard to build a special community around Wizard Lake for residents and users alike.”

That mindset led members of WLWLSA to attend a seminar in Leduc County in 2016 at which a presenter discussed the benefits of floating islands and spoke about how these islands can remove excess nutrients and contaminants from ponds and lakes without the use of chemicals. The floating islands, although small in size, can have a big impact on the lake by tackling several environmental issues.

“We walked away from that seminar asking if these islands could perhaps assist Wizard Lake as well as showcase a new and innovative stewardship tool on our lake,” explains Blake.

In 2017–2018, the WLWLSA received funding support through Land Stewardship Centre’s Watershed Stewardship Grant (WSG) program to install a biohaven system – a system of floating islands – on Wizard Lake. Each island will have specific objectives, from enhancing fish habitat and loon nesting, to managing shoreline erosion and water clarity. With their system, and a floating island now successfully installed, WLWLSA hopes to see them well-utilized as a safe haven for loons, providing shade and food to fish in the lake below, increasing water quality through the removal of excess nutrients and dispersing wave action from boats to protect the shoreline.

While a few other municipalities and organizations across Alberta have installed floating islands in dam/reservoir situations, Blake and the Association believe their project is unique since it is applied to a recreational lake setting.

“It’s important to preserve recreational lakes for Albertans to enjoy, yet our greater challenge is to ensure Albertans understand why it’s important,” adds Blake. “So, through this project, we also work hard to inform residents and users of the lake about our stewardship efforts and explain why what we do is so vital.”

Blake is also quick to point out that the Association and its committed volunteers couldn’t do what they do without the support of funding programs like the WSG. He adds that the WSG funding is essential to assisting small, volunteer-driven stewardship organizations to deliver top-notch projects that protect Alberta’s watersheds.

Get to know more about the WLWLSA.

Learn more about the WSG program

Since 2006, the Watershed Stewardship Grant (WSG) Program, made possible with funding from Alberta Environment and Parks, has provided grants to the province’s stewardship community to support their efforts. In that time, Land Stewardship Centre has administered more than $1,700,000 to 127 grassroots watershed stewardship groups to develop and implement nearly 300 projects in communities across Alberta.

Visit the Watershed Stewardship Grant pages to learn more about the WSG and how to apply.

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