Residents of the Chain Lakes area are concerned with a developer who recently cut out some paths on his property leading to the lake. Some felt his actions were illegal considering Ponoka County passed a bylaw making Chain Lakes a special area.
In July three paths were dug using a track hoe and a Bobcat to give three subdivided properties access to the lake. Initially residents thought the developer had broken the law, explained Edith Williams, a resident and member of the Friends with Chain Lakes group.
As the banks are fairly steep, there are some sections of the paths where they were dug into the hill, especially around the corners. Williams’ issue is with the size of the paths, which are up to eight feet wide. “This is very fragile land.”
Her fear was over erosion of the hill, which is undercut with sandstone and has a light, sandy soil, she explained. “Even constructed paths can get eroded quite easily.”
Friends of Chain Lakes have two concerns; first is manure, but there are no cattle that have access to the second lake; and the second is sewage. The group is concerned about sewage from too many residential lots and where it would go as the lakes are spring fed.
Developer Bob Rettie of Redquest Developments, said it was not long after Alberta Environment was contacted that inspectors came to the area to see if there was any negative impact on the water.
“Basically there’s been no leaching of soil,” said Rettie.
He feels there is a trade off on the land if the zoning is changed; there is less farming but then residential properties become a possibility.
Rettie said the biggest issue for the area is water quality and he understands residents’ desire to keep it clean.
Alberta Environment spokesperson Jessica Potter said there were also two culverts Rettie put in the property, which were not compliant with a watercourse crossing under the Water Act. Inspectors requested an erosion plan be submitted by Sept. 30 with implementation by Nov. 1.
Rettie has also hired a consultant to help bring the issues back to compliance.
Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth was informed of Rettie’s paths and residents’ concerns. “It all depends on the eye of the beholder; what’s a trail, what’s a road.”
Alberta Environment’s mandate is to ensure there is no erosion into the lake, and the lakeshore itself was undisturbed, explained Cutforth.
The Chain Lakes Water Management Plan was also still in the planning phase when Rettie cut his paths and Cutforth said there would have been an environmental reserve easement required if it was passed.
“I honestly think if he had come to us and we had said ‘No,’ he wouldn’t have done it,” stated Cutforth.
He also feels Rettie’s goal was to add value to his property and not to be malicious. One of the main reasons for the management plan is to minimize development of the lakes. “Intensive livestock and residential development do not belong across the fence from each other. That’s why the management plan was so important to us.”
The plan states that developments are “eligible to be considered.”
With the new plan there has to be an adequate building site and adequate tree cover on the property.
Rettie did not break any laws with regard to building his path but requirements from Alberta Environment state Rettie must place silt or sediment fencing along the paths to ensure they do not erode. Rettie said he is required to monitor the paths for five years even if it is sold.