On September 1, 1995, over 200 concerned residents and users of Jackfish Lake attended a public meeting held at Mink Lake Hall. There were two issues: the threat of the county applying for a 10 hp boating restriction as a way of remedying the on-going problems at the lake, and rumours of another proposed subdivision application being submitted to the County. Those in attendance were upset and confused as to what type of impact these potential changes would have on Jackfish Lake and its resources. The outcome of this meeting was to create a unified voice through the formation of an association. The Jackfish Lake Management Association requested that Parkland County allocate funds for the preparation of a Jackfish Lake Management Plan that would take into consideration the ecological and social sensitivities of this area and allow us to become a partner in the decision-making process. The Association also requested the deferral of any proposed boating restrictions and development until all issues affecting the Lake could be addressed through a comprehensive process and the completion of a lake management plan.
JACKFISH LAKE AREA STRUCTURE PLAN
On December 12, 1995, Parkland County approved $40,000 in their annual budget to be allocated for the preparation of a Jackfish Lake Area Structure Plan (ASP). A Steering Committee was established in 1996, comprised of representatives from JLMA, Parkland County, Alberta Environmental Protection (AEP), Alberta Agriculture, Food & Rural Development and West View Regional Health Authority.
VITAL EDGE PRESENTATION
On March 30, 1996 the JLMA arranged for David Park and Bill Patterson from AEP, Fish & Wildlife to make a presentation to increase our membership’s awareness of the issues related to shoreline development.
VOLUNTEER LAKE MONITORING COMMITTEE
The Area Structure Plan (ASP) did not provide for a water quality management program within the terms of reference and the most recent water quality data on Jackfish Lake was sampling from 1980 and 1981. A jointly run project between the JLMA, AEP, and Alberta Lake Management Society (ALMS) was established whereby JLMA volunteer members were trained by AEP& ALMS to collect water samples from 10 sites, twice a month from May – September. All necessary equipment and the sample analysis service were provided by AEP. The analysis was forwarded to the Steering Committee to ensure that they had current data on which to base their decision-making.
JLMA BOAT LAUNCH COMMITTEE
The committee submitted recommendations to improve operations at the County owned and operated Public Launch and Picnic Area. Two of the ten point recommendations were approved for implementation. The balance of the recommendations was forwarded to the Steering Committee for review.
1997 AREA STRUCTURE PLAN DRAFTED
The JLMA focused its energies on our involvement with the Steering Committee preparing the draft Jackfish Lake Area Structure Plan. It was a year of searching for solutions, facing challenges, being proactive and innovative, and compromising while keeping our mission statement in the forefront of our thoughts and actions. We encouraged every stakeholder to become involved in the public input process and to attend the Steering Committee workshops. The County public hearing for the ASP was held on October 3, 1997.
1998 SHORELINE REHABILITATION PILOT PROJECT
Two JLMA Members volunteered their lots for Shoreline Restoration Plots. This project was offered to us from the Alberta Conservation Association and is an initiative to show lakefront owners that natural shorelines can be developed in a responsible way and still be aesthetically pleasing. Both volunteers had been allowing their shorelines to naturalize since seeing the Vital Edge Presentation. One plot had a variety of native plants starting to regenerate and the other plot was located in an area classified in the ASP as “damaged shoreline”. This project gave us an opportunity to learn the entire process involved in planning, applying for the proper permits, implementing the project and seeing the results of two very different shoreline situations.
R.C.M.P. BOAT PATROL PROGRAM
The JLMA took the initiative of sponsoring a “Boating Safety Awareness Program”. After discussions with the R.C.M.P. Stony Plain Detachment, it appeared feasible to enter into a contract for Boat Patrol Services at Jackfish Lake. In addition to regular boating safety and regulation enforcement, the hired constable was responsible for educating boaters on the new blanket boating restriction, the 10-30 Rule, as well as providing education on the upcoming boating and personal watercraft licensing program to be implemented in January 1999. The Community Lottery Board #32 awarded the JLMA with a grant to fund this program partially.
1999 TWO ISLAND POINT SUBDIVISION
A new subdivision, approved in 1998, became the first test case for the Jackfish Lake Area Structure Plan. Already during the prolonged approval process, several areas that were thought to be covered by the ASP came into question as differing interpretations of the clauses were presented. In the end, Two Island Point was approved with 14 lots, most of them one (1) acre in size, surrounding the perimeter of the peninsula-shaped piece of property. As lots were sold in Two Island Point, new residents began to make improvements to their properties. Additional aspects of the development permits and the associated Restrictive Covenant placed on the properties were brought under scrutiny, specifically the tenets of the 30-metre Environmental Reserves (protected areas along the shoreline) and the common dock/pier recommendation that seemed to go by the wayside as ERs were cleared of underbrush and individual piers made their appearance at several lots.
As the Summer of 1999 drew to a close, the JLMA Executive and Board was directed by members at the Annual General Meeting held on September 18 to continue to communicate with all levels of government to be accountable for the policies contained in the Jackfish Lake Area Structure Plan, and to define more clearly how some of those policies are to be interpreted.
2001 LAKE WATCH ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING PROGRAM
In 2001 the JLMA association collaborated with Alberta Environment and the Alberta Lake Management Society to participate in the Lake Watch program, which provided an analysis of the lake’s state of health. A copy of this report is available here.
2002 JACKFISH LAKE AREA STRUCTURE PLAN UPDATED
The Jackfish Lake Area Structure Plan was formally updated by Parkland County in consultation with the Jackfish Lake Management Association, as an outcome of ongoing discussions, with sections 4.3 to 4.7 of the ASP revised to address a number of specific concerns and gaps in the original plan including clarifying jurisdictional responsibilities, providing for expanded shoreline protection, addressing boating/ lake use conflicts, and setting new more stringent guidelines for any future lake development.
2008 ADDRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL INFRACTIONS
As the need for environmental sustainability gained traction with Jackfish Lake residents, the JLMA looked to the Government of Alberta to provide stricter enforcement. An example of this came in July 2008 when the Province ordered a local land owner to cease unauthorized work on Jackfish Lake with orders that a remediation plan be developed under the Water Act Enforcement Order.
During a site inspection, Alberta Environment staff observed the landowner operating an excavator within Jackfish Lake and on the adjacent environmental reserve. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed that a number of large cement blocks had been placed in the lake to act as a boat launch, and that vegetation from the bed and shore of the water body and environmental reserve had been removed to launch boats into the lake. Approval had not been obtained under Alberta’s Water Act.
The construction and continued operation of the boat launch may alter the flow or level of water, the location of water, causing siltation or erosion to the banks of the lake, and may cause an adverse effect on the aquatic environment.
Under the Order, unauthorized work on the bed and shore of Jackfish Lake and the environmental reserve was ordered to cease immediately and steps were ordered to prevent siltation into Jackfish Lake. A reclamation plan for the site was also ordered with final reclamation to be complete by August 31.
Through inspections, education and strict enforcement measures, Alberta Environment’s compliance team ensures individuals and companies adhere to the acts and regulations Alberta has in place to protect human health, safety and the environment.
2009 TRANQUIL WATERS SUBDIVISION PROPOSAL
In January 2009, an open house was held by the Jackfish Lake Land Corporation at which it announced that is had purchased 160 acres of farm land at the north end of Jackfish Lake. The Corporation stated at the open house that there are roughly 42 acres of developable land in the 160-acre parcel. The Corporation was proposing to develop a 20-acre subdivision consisting of 45 single-family detached residences, to be developed according to a bareland condominium concept. This subdivision would be named “Tranquil Waters on the Lakes”.
A key feature of the proposed subdivision would be a 45-bay private marina that would require a 16-metre shoreline “allowance” and would include a dockside refueling station. The Corporation stated at the open house that there would be no lake shore ownership and one boat per residence.
Another key feature of the subdivision would be an onsite sewage and wastewater collection, treatment and dispersion system. This field would take up an estimated area of 46,867 metres. Two water wells would be drilled to serve the subdivision with residences supplied by a communal water system. The complex technology behind this sewage system had been used in the United States but not in Alberta.
The Jackfish Lake Management Association had numerous concerns about this proposed development (see attached). It was ultimately not approved for development.
2013 ADDRESSING FURTHER ENVIRONMENTAL INFRACTIONS
In early October 2013, a developer mowed over the County Day Use area with the intent of improving sitelines from its adjacent property to the lake.
Over the course of one day, unauthorized development saw much of the County Day Use area destroyed after wide swaths of vegetation were cleared from the sloped land down to the shoreline. Jackfish Lake residents estimated the damages to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Aside from the destruction of the day use area, the damage threatened the lake itself as sediment runoff into the lake would increase nutrient loading which would increase the potential for blue-green algae as well as killing fish and fish eggs.
On October 11, the County issued a notice that it would be taking steps to remediate the damages, including installing a silt fence around the developed area to hold back sediment from the lake, and that it would be pursuing options to recover all costs of remediation.
The County was also in touch with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), to assist with the investigation.
2014 REQUEST FOR MORATORIUM ON FUTURE DEVELOPMENT
On March 13th, 2014, the JMLA requested that a moratorium be placed on all planning around Jackfish Lake in our response to the 2014 Parkland County Environmental Conservation Master Plan (ECMP) Environmental Significant Areas (ESA). The reasons given to place a moratorium on all planning around Jackfish Lake were as follows:
- Water quality is the JLMA’s and JLMA Environmental Committee’s primary focus. Due to the ECMP being a mapping tool to identify ESA’s in Parkland County overall, we believe that the WMP’s will create meaningful restrictions on a particular area in a Watershed Management Plan with legislatively enforceable bylaws.
- Given the high environmental sensitivity rating due to high groundwater sensitivity and our concern to protect water quality, JLMA recommended that Jackfish Lake be designated as Provincial ESA significance
The moratorium would continue until the completion of a State of the Watershed report, the Watershed Management Plan and our current ASP are updated and incorporated in the Municipal District Plan (MDP) and land-use bylaws. This would allow time to facilitate a collaborative approach with stakeholder consultations.
Parkland County denied the request for a moratorium.
2015 LAKE PRESSURES CONTINUE TO ELEVATE
Continued pressures on Jackfish Lake in combination with a deterioration of the lake health due in part to prolonged low water levels led to a blue green algae bloom in summer 2015, followed by significant fish kill during winter 2016. This led the Jackfish Lake Management Association and its members into significant discussion about the future of the lake and what more could be done in the interest of not only protecting the lake but reversing the trend in lake deterioration.
2016 JACKFISH LAKE STATE OF THE WATERSHED REPORT PUBLISHED
In April 2016, the North Saskatchewan River Watershed Alliance in conjunction with the Jackfish Lake Management Association published the Jackfish Lake State of the Watershed Report.
The purpose of this comprehensive 182 page report was to consolidate environmental information on Jackfish Lake and its watershed in an effort to support future planning and management discussions. The report provides perspective on current environmental conditions at the lake relative to regional and historic trends. The report is provided as advice to the Jackfish Lake Management Association (JLMA), Alberta Environment and Parks, and Parkland County.
The technical information contained in this document is detailed and addresses many lake and watershed features. Jackfish Lake has been under significant development and recreational pressure for many decades; these factors have impacted certain components of the lake ecosystem.
In addition, climate patterns have contributed to long-term water level declines at Jackfish Lake and other small lakes in the region; current levels are the lowest recorded for the past half century.
Water quality conditions in Jackfish Lake have remained reasonable over the years. However, a blue green algal advisory was issued by Alberta Health Services during summer 2015, and a significant fish kill occurred during winter 2016. These recent events are likely a direct response to the low lake levels.
The Jackfish Lake community is encouraged to support sustainable residential and development practices in the watershed, improve the management of boat traffic, begin the rehabilitation of damaged riparian zones and consider other restoration needs. The condition of the lake has deteriorated in recent years; action is required to prevent further degradation and to protect the lake for future generations.
Collaboration with key partners, including Parkland County, Alberta Environment and Parks, and the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance is recommended to address the diversity of issues at the lake. The ongoing collection of lake water quality data is also recommended, either through the LakeWatch program (ALMS) or by the Government of Alberta.
The complete report is posted in the Resources section of this site.
The report provided an impetus for considerable discussion among the Jackfish Lake community, including discussion of investigating the potential feasibility for water diversion from the North Saskatchewan River to help stabilize water levels.
2017 BOATING INJURY REITERATES NEED FOR SAFETY
While the Jackfish Lake Management Association has spent considerable time and resources trying to educate lake users on safe boating practices, the flurry of boating activity on Jackfish Lake through the spring and summer months sometimes leads to dangerous situations. Unfortunately, in early August 2017 a 27-year-old man from St. Albert was seriously injured when he was run over by a pontoon boat while out wakeboarding with friends. He suffered a broken scapula, fractured ribs and multiple deep cuts to his arms, head and back, and escaped being paralyzed by millimetres.
This incident emphasizes that we cannot stress enough the need to be vigilant of safety when on the lake.
2018 WEST POINT ESTATES SUBDIVISION
In 2017 a new subdivision development was proposed consisting of 57 residential lots encompassing approximately 100 ha or an area equivalent to 42 per cent of the total lake area. Approximately 30 of the proposed lots were lakefront properties and all lots were well within the immediate watershed of the lake.
Given the potential impact of this development on the lake, the Jackfish Lake Management Association as well as many concerned local residents opposed the plan. The JLMA’s position on the development can be reviewed here.
Despite misalignment with the Area Structure Plan, multiple public hearings and vocal opposition to the plan, Parkland County approved the new subdivision in early 2018. The final approved plan is posted here.
2020 RECOGNIZING 25 YEARS
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Jackfish Lake Management Association. The survival of Jackfish Lake over the last two decades is thanks in large part to the concerted efforts of the individuals who have led and supported the work of the association, as the lake has faced significant challenges in ensuring its sustainability. This work continues as the lake faces new challenges.
As the Association exists through voluntary membership and is led by community members on a volunteer basis, anyone with an interest in Jackfish Lake is urged to become a member of the Association and to become actively involved in the Association. We are only as strong as the level of interest and commitment of our community members. As we celebrate our success over the last 25 years, we must not lose sight of the continued challenges facing Jackfish Lake or the need for us to continue to work together to ensure the lake’s sustainability.