Christopher Justice wants North Cowichan to consider options to reduce the flow of phosphorus into Quamichan Lake.
Justice, a councillor in the municipality, asked council to instruct staff to prepare a report on the issue at the council meeting on Sept. 4, but it was referred to the next council meeting to allow time for more information and input to be gathered.
Justice said that while he’s aware that much of the current work underway on the issue involves research into how much phosphorus is already in the lake and its origins, the municipality should be thinking ahead about developing ways to lessen the amount of phosphorus going into Quamichan Lake.
“Some of the phosphorous may come from natural sediments, but I understand that land uses, including agricultural and residential, are also playing a big part,” he said.
“We need to think through ways that the community can behave to lessen the amount of phosphorous that is going into the lake.”
Justice said other jurisdictions dealing with the same issues might be able to provide North Cowichan with some good ideas.
“I think it would be useful to learn the best of these ideas and consider how we can adapt them here,” Justice said.
Justice said his intention with the motion is not to take immediate action, but for council to begin thinking about land-use issues and North Cowichan’s engineering standards in relation to these types of issues.
“It’s a good time for this with the upcoming reviews of our official community plan and zoning bylaws,” he said.
In July, council agreed to hire a consultant to sample and test the water in Quamichan Lake in efforts to determine how best to deal with the lake’s ongoing problem with blue-green algae blooms, that are caused by phosphorous.
The consultant’s responsibilities include analyzing sediment cores to determine how much phosphorus is stored at the bottom of the lake and how much comes from external sources.
North Cowichan’s council made the decision after a presentation by aquatic scientist Dr. Dave Preikshot at its meeting on July 17.
There had been at least four reported dog deaths around Quamichan Lake in 2016, and all are suspected to have been caused by ingesting toxic blue-green algae from the lake.
North Cowichan decided at the time to set up the Quamichan Lake Water Quality Task Force, consisting of staff and council members, along with water specialists, to study and seek solutions to the ongoing health issues related to the algae.
Mayor Al Siebring said he appreciates Justice’s efforts to move the process along, but wondered if council should wait for the consultant’s report before moving forward with the motion.
He pointed out that, at this stage, council doesn’t know how much of the phosphorus in the lake comes from external sources and how much is natural in the lake.
“While this is still being studied, do we want staff to prepare this report?” he asked
North Cowichan’s CAO Ted Swabey said that while he agrees with the enthusiasm to get moving on dealing with the lake’s phosphorous issues, he would prefer input from North Cowichan’s new environmental specialist when the position is filled, or with Priekshot, before moving forward with consideration of the staff report requested by Justice.
Council decided to refer the motion to the next regular council meeting and asked staff to seek advice from Preikshot prior to the meeting.