Super-natural Cultus Lake is suffering the effects of being super-popular among visitors and residents alike.
An estimated three million people flock to the area to take in the lake view every year, but some stakeholders have become increasingly concerned about the march of environmental degradation.
Nutrient loading, heavy recreational use, development, resource extraction and other human impacts are all taking their toll on the waterway.
Lake stewards and Soowahlie First Nation members hosted a gathering at the Yakweakwioose longhouse recently, to share information and stories about the social, economic and environmental aspects of recent changes to the lake’s ecosystem.
“The future of the lake and the life it supports is dependent upon the surrounding communities and decision-makers coming together to support solutions that foremost care for Cultus Lake and the lives dependent on the lake,” said Chief Otis Jasper.
Good water quality is important for sustainability of the ecosystem, human well-being, property values and the local economy.
“Our willingness to care for Cultus Lake will shape its future,” said Marion Robinson of the Fraser Basin Council, secretariat for the Cultus Lake Aquatic Strategy Society. “Good water quality is important to a healthy ecosystem, and it’s important for human health, for property values and for the economy of the region. If we all work together, there is an opportunity to turn things around.”
New core samples spanning 50 to 100 years indicate the lake is moving towards eutrophication, or nutrient enrichment, which is dramatically changing fish habitat and water quality.
Complicating this are the unique fish stocks, including the critically endangered Cultus Lake sockeye, a genetically distinct salmon population, and the Cultus Pygmy Sculpin, a small fish found nowhere else in the world.
Degraded water quality and habitat are associated with symptoms of invasive species such as yellow flag iris and Eurasian milfoil. Predator fish control is another ongoing concern.
The Cultus Lake aquatic stewards expect to pursue other community dialogues in 2011 and are partnering with DFO and Simon Fraser University on a project called ‘The scoop on poop: Estimating the nutrient mass balance in Cultus Lake’ to gain a better understanding of the conditions.