A man walks a dog along a trail near Main Beach at Cultus Lake on a mild winter afternoon Saturday.

Lake stewards gather at Chilliwack longhouse

Cultus Lake stewards gathered at the Yakweakwioose longhouse Tuesday night to get a yearly update on the treasured Chilliwack ecosystem.

Stewards concerned about Cultus Lake gathered at the Yakweakwioose longhouse Tuesday night to get a yearly update on the treasured Chilliwack ecosystem.

“Our people say the lake is one of our mothers,” said speaker Mark Point, a researcher at Sto:lo Tribal Council.

He introduced the event’s delicate aim of sharing a traditional meal in the longhouse, as well as uniting diverse interests around caring for the lake.

The night included a status update from the Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy, facilitated by Marion Robinson of the Fraser Basin Council and Soowahlie First Nation.

“Cultus Lake is suffering from something the scientists call eutrophication, which means it’s getting too much nutrient,” Robinson said.

Some elders remember a time when the lake was clear all the way down to the bottom. But in recent years it’s become murkier in part due to the presence of about three million visitors annually to the Cultus Lake area.

“The whole point of the evening was sharing information on caring for Cultus Lake,” she said. “We consciously invited the community because we are busy building community around these issues.”

They expressed gratitude for the fourth year in a row that Grand Chief Frank Malloway allowed the “big house” to be opened in winter for the annual update and traditional meal shared by reps from local First Nations, business, government, private sector and the community.

Aboriginal speakers shared traditional stories about the lake and the supernatural creatures the dwell in it according to Sto:lo lore. An FVRD engineer touched on the status of sewage treatment in the area.

Many were waiting to hear the report by Cultus Lake Salmon Lab researcher Annika Putt, an SFU student. She is conducting field work at the DFO lab and is measuring nutrients levels at various points around the lake for the two-year Nutrient Mass Balance study.

The study is looking at the eutrophication or impacts of nutrients on the lake.

“The health of Cultus Lake is deteriorating,” Putt said.

Like many hugely popular lakes, it has too much nutrient, but pinpointing the precise source of the nutrients is a big part of the study. Some of the usual suspects are sewage, bird droppings, seepage and more.

But even if the flow of nutrients into the lake were stopped or slowed, it would still take a long time for the lake to rebound.

“We hope to take the information eventually and say these are the areas to target, and work toward halt the current trend of decreasing health,” Putt said.

Check out more at cultusstewards.shawbiz.ca