Love Your Lake program to assess shoreline health of 5 Sask. lakes this year

Lac La Pêche is one of five involved in the Love Your Lake program this year. (Lac La Peche Resort/Facebook)

The North Saskatchewan River Basin Council (NSRBC) is hoping to improve shoreline health while developing relationships with lake leaders through an ongoing partnership.

The organization has been collaborating with Watersheds Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation since 2016 for the Love Your Lake program.

The program was designed by both national groups, which trained the NSRBC to assess shorelines by boat. Then, they compile individualized reports with suggested actions for property owners to improve shoreline health and, in turn, the health of the lakes and wildlife.

This year, they’ll be assessing the shorelines of Meeting Lake, Emerald Lake, Iroquois Lake, Martins Lake and Lac La Pêche. Each of those lakes are between an hour and an hour and a half west or southwest of Prince Albert.

“It’s been really positive for us in relationship building and to get people engaged in their own lake health,” said Katherine Finn, general manager of the NSRBC.

“We didn’t have as strong of a relationship with a number of lakes even three, four years ago as we do now because of the Love Your Lake program.”

Finn said it’s just as much a partnership with the municipalities, who help with the educational campaign.

The main indicator of shoreline health, she said, is vegetation—the more you have, and the greater diversity of the plants, the better the roots will anchor down the soil.

Vegetation will also catch nutrients from fertilizer or soil erosion, for example, that would otherwise run into the water. This causes algal blooms, which deplete oxygen and block sunlight for fish and plants.

“The greatest outcome is to get lake users and cabin owners aware of how their land use and decision making can impact water quality. It really snowballs significantly…things they hadn’t really thought about or realized, they become much more aware,” said Finn.

She said property owners can do their part to protect their lakes by reducing or ceasing fertilizing and planting a variety of species as a barrier.

Finn said the NSRBC also does a follow-up program to Love Your Lake called The Natural Edge. In this initiative, the organization works with waterfront property owners to plant native trees, shrubs, groundcovers, wildflowers and grasses along the water’s edge.

“There’s no rules or regulations for this. We understand people want to enjoy their properties,” said Finn.

“When we do the restoration work, (we) include different species that work with the land use.”

Since 2013, nearly 40,000 shoreline properties on 163 lakes have been assessed through the Love Your Lake program. In Saskatchewan, they’ve completed 10 lakes in the North Saskatchewan River watershed.

“This program provides both individuals and lake organizations with the tools and information they need to improve their shorelines and ultimately make their lakes healthier,” said David Browne, Canadian Wildlife Federation director of conservation science.

Barbara King, executive director of Watersheds Canada, said they’ve received positive feedback on the program.

“By providing shoreline property owners with customized reports about their shorelines and offering suggestions for voluntary personal actions, this program solves the question about how exactly one can improve the health and longevity of their shoreline,” said King.

The NSRBC seeks community involvement and support to successfully improve the watershed through the Source Water Protection Plan. The plan was developed over four years with the assistance of the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority and public consultations.