Federal government funds water quality, climate change projects in central Sask.

North Saskatchewan River Basin Council (NSRBC) General Manager Katherine Finn said excessive boating activities, especially near shorelines, can cause a ripple effect of consequences that kill fish. (Herald file photo)

‘Emma Lake Action and Understanding’ and ‘Muskeg Lake Cree Nation: A Story of Community and Climate’ focus on awareness and preparedness

The North Saskatchewan River Basin Council (NSRBC) and its partners have launched projects in Emma Lake and Muskeg Lake Cree Nation to make people more mindful of the impacts of boating activities and climate change.

The non-profit received about $100,000 in funding from the federal government for each project, both of which began in April.

The first, which is called ‘Emma Lake Action and Understanding,’ focuses on the impacts of boating activities.

General Manager Katherine Finn said the project consists of testing the water quality, repairing shorelines, putting up signs and an education campaign.

“The impact of boating is hard to quantify at this point, but certainly the more boats, and especially boating activity near the shoreline, increases the wave action and the turbidity in the lake,” she said.

This can lead to several negative consequences for the water quality.

Finn said with materials suspended in the water, it’s difficult for the sun to reach the lake’s vegetation.

It also integrates nutrients into the water which can cause algal blooms. When the algae dies and decomposes, it causes a drop in oxygen and kills fish.

Additionally, it can create something you may have been taught to keep an eye out for while swimming in the lake on a hot summer day: blue green algae.

“It produces a neurotoxin that can have quite a significant impact on humans and animals and pets and anyone who may consume any of the lake water,” said Finn. Side effects may include stomach pains, diarrhea and skin rashes.

The NSRBC is creating a short YouTube video as part of their educational campaign, which is meant to engage wake boarders.

“(It’s) not to criticize or try to inhibit their boating activity, but just engage them in having some awareness of the potential impact from those heavier waves or watercraft,” emphasized Finn.

The education campaign consists of a survey and handing out informational flyers to businesses in Prince Albert that sell boating equipment.

The second project is called ‘Muskeg Lake Cree Nation: A Story of Community and Climate.’ It focuses on preparedness of the possible health effects from climate change, with an emphasis on learning through traditional First Nations knowledge.

The project, which hopes to engage First Nations youth, includes creating a storybook, a YouTube video and an emergency response plan and installing a weather station.

“We really wanted to engage the youth and have their input and have meaningful engagement with them—mostly because it’s their future,” said Finn.

She said climate change can result in health risks from flooding: mould can grow in your house if it’s flooded or it can contaminate ground water.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, wildfires have the potential to burn houses down and inhaling the smoke can cause breathing issues.

The YouTube video is for awareness of how to be prepared for climate change and the storybook will encompass how the community has adapted.

Throughout their adaptations, youth will be learning about the environment from their elders.

‘Muskeg Lake Cree Nation: A Story of Community and Climate’ is a one-year project, while ‘Emma Lake Action and Understanding’ takes place over two years.

The Emma Lake project’s funding is through the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program and is in partnership with Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the District of Lakeland.

NSRBC received funding for the Muskeg Lake project from the Indigenous Services Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program and is in partnership with the Prince Albert Model Forest (PAMF) and the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC).

Muskeg Lake Cree Nation is about an hour southwest of Prince Albert. Emma Lake is about 40 minutes north of Prince Albert.