Fears of Prussian carp infestation has put a five-year stay on pumping water into Gull Lake.
The issue came to head in April when Ponoka County councillors discussed concerns about the fish, described as a wild goldfish, completely invading the lake. A recent study found carp in the Blindman River — where water is pumped to level out Gull Lake — and any further pumping could put at risk the entire lake.
Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth confirmed the province’s hold on pumping until the issue can be sorted.
“The county certainly supports the decision,” said Cutforth, adding that the fish reproduces quite rapidly.
One of the issues for some groups is that the hold on pumping will affect development around Gull Lake. However, Cutforth said the surrounding municipalities and development groups have no desire to pump water into the lake.
“Apparently these little buggers are so prevalent not only in the Blindman River but in the Red Deer River,” explained Cutforth. “They’ve gotten into several lakes.”
There is an effort to create a staged pump system, added Cutforth. One group is in the works of developing that system, which is hoped will not contaminate the lake. The pump is still in development.
According to an email from Alberta Environment and Parks, “If pumping were to occur, the lakes’ ecosystem health would be at a significant risk because of the potential for a direct transfer of Prussian carp into both lakes (Buffalo and Gull Lake).”
If there is a way to pump water without contaminating the lake with carp, it won’t be with existing pump systems. An engineering study found no economically viable way for that to occur.
“It’s important to note that Environment and Parks has not pumped into Buffalo Lake since 2010 or Gull Lake since 2011, due to naturally high lake levels well above the trigger elevations for pumping,” states the email.
For now, “water levels at both lakes will fluctuate naturally based on local conditions, as is common in lakes across Alberta.”
The province has met with the Buffalo Lake Management Team, the Gull Lake Stabilization Committee, and the The Gull Lake Watershed Society (GLWS) to explain the risks.
“Aquatic invasive species pose a significant threat to Alberta’s biodiversity and we will continue to take the steps necessary to respond to these threats,” concludes the email.