Current status

A multi-pronged, holistic approach to address high nutrient levels in Elk/Beaver Lake and surrounding ecosystem is currently underway. This approach aims to improve water quality and reduce frequency of blue-green algae, improve fish habitat and manage growth of Eurasian milfoil, through the development of a watershed management plan, and an in-lake remediation plan.

On October 14, 2020, the CRD Board received the Elk/Beaver Lake Watershed Management Plan and directed staff to implement actions within the Plan as opportunities allow. The Watershed Management Plan outlines a series of actions and long-term monitoring efforts to address external nutrient sources, and an in-lake remediation plan is underway to procure and cost-share an oxygenation system for Elk Lake to help address internal nutrient loading in both lakes.

The Province has contributed $750,000 to help buy an oxygenator for the In-Lake Remediation Plan. The CRD will be responsible for the system and ongoing maintenance costs. The CRD will prioritize installing an oxygenation system in Elk Lake to improve water quality and reduce toxic blue-green algal blooms. For Beaver Lake, a de-stratification system to promote mixing and turnover in the smaller water body is recommended. It is not the recommended approach to install treatment systems in both lakes simultaneously. As Elk Lake and Beaver Lake are connected water bodies, it is anticipated that an oxygenation system installed in Elk Lake may also have a positive impact on Beaver Lake. Successful implementation of the Elk Lake system will provide the information required to properly size the system for Beaver Lake, to be delivered as a second future phase.

We are moving to the next phase of implementation for the in-lake remediation of Elk/Beaver Lake. In 2021, a consultant (ARCADIS Canada Inc.) was retained to design a lake remediation system to address the water quality problem. A direct oxygen diffuser system has been recommended for the Elk Lake remediation. The main components of this system include (a) the underwater diffuser line to deliver oxygen to the deepest part of Elk Lake, (b) the oxygen-generating system and (c) a building to house the oxygenation system equipment. 

Several substantive steps toward construction have been completed in Summer/Fall 2022:

  • The oxygen-generating system was purchased in July 2022.
  • The contract for the Supply and Installation of In-Lake Air Diffusion Line was awarded in September 2022.
  • Development of building design documents is underway for the system building.
  • A Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) permit for in-water project work has been secured.
  • A geotechnical assessment at the building site has been completed.

Based on current progress, construction of the Elk Lake oxygenation system is anticipated to start in Fall/Winter 2022/23 and expected to be completed in 2023.

The design team has considered the potential impacts of the operation of the system on the ecological, cultural, recreational and operational values in Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park and surrounding lands. Following an assessment of all of those values, a site near Hamsterly Road was selected as most appropriate because it was the most operationally feasible and environmentally responsible (equipment access, no disruption of recreational activities, minimal disruption to wildlife habitat and no tree removal required). The building is a single story building with a footprint of approximately 20’x 28’. The oxygenation system has been specified to have a maximum sound rating of 71 dB which is equivalent to the sound generated from a standard washing machine or dishwasher. Considering that the oxygenation system is housed inside a building, it is anticipated the sound emitted from this building would be minimal, in particular in relation to the regular ambient noise during the daytime. Please see detailed Options Analysis Memo for more information on site selection for the system.

The project page will continue to be updated as we have more information. Please feel free to share this page with anyone in the community who would like to keep up to date on the project.

Public Feedback

Following the initial input from residents, the Elk/Beaver Lake Watershed Management Plan was drafted and an opportunity for public review and feedback of the plan was provided in February 2020 through an online survey. The management plan was finalized and approved in October 2020. Thank you to everyone for participating in the survey.

Watershed Management Plan: The development of a watershed management plan was developed to address external sources of nutrients through a public engagement process. External sources of nutrients come from various land use activities around the lake (urban or agricultural) as well as natural processes that bring nutrients into the lake.

Public engagement is a key part of developing the watershed management plan for Elk/Beaver Lake and, as a result, the CRD welcomes feedback on this work. A public info session was held on July 31, 2019. Three additional feedback sessions were held throughout September and October 2019, as well as direct consultation with interest groups, field experts and government agencies. The public were invited to comment on the draft Elk/Beaver Lake Watershed Management Plan through an online survey to support the finalization of the plan.

In-lake Remediation Plan: The development of an in-lake remediation plan is underway to address internal sources of nutrients in Elk/Beaver Lake. These nutrients have accumulated over decades in the lake and bottom sediments and are continually recycled back into the water column under low-oxygen conditions. The in-lake remediation process is guided by expert consultants and an intergovernmental working group. On September 11, 2019 staff brought forward a Staff Report and Business Case to the CRD Board outlining the environmental, recreational, community and economic values of the lake (over $10 million annually) and a recommendation to remediate the lake. The CRD Board approved the recommendation to move ahead with the in-lake remediation of Elk/Beaver Lake, subject to receiving at least 50% capital grant funds for the project. This recommendation includes the installation of oxygenation systems in Elk/Beaver Lake to improve water quality at a capital cost of $1.4 million and ongoing operational costs of $100,000 -$150,000 annually. For more details on the CRD Board discussion and decision, watch the video online (Section 8.9 19-755 Elk/Beaver Lake Remediation).

The Province has contributed $750,000 to help purchased an oxygenation system. The CRD will be responsible for the system and ongoing maintenance costs. For Beaver Lake a de-stratification system to promote mixing and turnover in the smaller water body is recommended. The Capital Regional District plans to install an oxygenation system in Elk Lake and a de-stratification system in Beaver Lake to improve water quality and reduce toxic blue-green algal blooms.

Background

The Elk/Beaver Lake Initiative was established by the CRD in 2016 in partnership with an intergovernmental working group to improve water quality at the lake. The priorities identified by the initiative include reducing cyanobacteria blooms, managing invasive aquatic plant growth and improving fish habitat. Our work to date has confirmed that the primary source of issues in the lake is the high levels of nutrients in the lake coming from both internal and external sources.

Elk/Beaver Lake is the most visited regional park, valued for its variety of environmental, social, recreational, and cultural benefits to the region.

Water quality issues at Elk/Beaver Lake were identified in the 1960s and water quality continues to decline, having significant impacts on the environment, social, cultural and recreation values of the lake and surrounding park.

In response to declining water quality, an Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) was formed to discuss the lake system and develop a strategy to improve water quality. Membership of this group include the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Island Health, the CRD, and the District of Saanich. Communications and collaboration with local interested groups, lake users and stakeholders are ongoing.

At the direction of the CRD Board, staff formed the Elk/Beaver Lake Initiative (EBLI) in 2016 to chair and coordinate actions with the IWG, and local government and interest groups that would reduce the frequency and toxicity of cyanobacteria, improve fish habitat, manage invasive weed growth and ensure continued recreational use of the lakes.

The primary cause of these issues are high nutrient levels in Elk/Beaver Lake.

This initiative aims to address the source of the issue through the development of two plans:

  • The in-lake remediation plan will address internal sources of nutrients (in lake sediments), guided by expert consultants and project partners
  • The watershed management plan will address external sources of nutrients in the watershed, guided by public consultation

Addressing environmental concerns

The following environmental concerns at Elk/Beaver Lake have been identified and are being addressed through this initiative:

  • Frequent cyanobacteria blooms
  • Invasive growth of Eurasian Milfoil
  • Poor habitat quality for native fish and other native wildlife

The cause of these environmental concerns is largely related to the high nutrient levels in the lake, particularly phosphorus.

High nutrients in the lake come from external and internal sources and significantly impact the health of the lake overall. The impact of high nutrients in Elk/Beaver Lake is summarized in the following infographic:

The current status of the lake and vision for the future protection of Elk/Beaver Lake is summarized in the following infographic:

Watershed management plan

The purpose of the watershed management plan is to reduce external sources of nutrients to support environmental, social and economic values of Elk/Beaver Lake.

External nutrients are carried by water, sediments and dust particles from sources outside of the lake and deposited into the lake. External sources include human activities such as land development, road construction and farming that bring additional nutrients into the lake and alter the movement of nutrients across the landscape.

The scope of this watershed management plan is geographically focused to Elk/Beaver Lake and the surrounding sub-watershed draining into Elk/Beaver Lake, to reduce sources of external nutrients.

The development of a watershed management plan will be closely coordinated with the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG), local government, First Nations, residents, park visitors and interest groups in our region through a public engagement process.

In-lake remediation plan

The purpose of the in-lake remediation plan is to investigate and select a remediation option that will reduce internal sources of nutrients to support environmental, social, recreational and cultural values of Elk/Beaver Lake.

Internal nutrients contribute the greatest amount of nutrients in the lake overall (over 70%). Internal nutrients come from the sediment at the bottom of the lake that are recycled back into the water column. Nutrients in lake sediments have accumulated there over time from a long history of intensive agricultural, forestry and urban development around the lake. Nutrients that collect in the lake sediments are released into the water column under low oxygen conditions and negatively affect water quality.

In coordination with project partners, the IWG and technical experts, a phased approach to data collection and analysis is currently underway to ensure a well-informed, scientifically supported in-lake remediation plan to address internal nutrients.

The CRD Board approved a recommendation on September 11, 2019 to move ahead with the in-lake remediation of Elk/Beaver Lake, subject to receiving at least 50% capital grant funds for the project. This recommendation includes the installation of oxygenation systems in Elk/Beaver Lake to improve water quality at a capital cost of $1.4 million and ongoing operational costs of $100,000-$150,000 annually. For more details on the in-lake remediation system and to watch a video of the Board discussion and decision, click here. (go to Section 8.9; 19-755 Elk/Beaver Lake Remediation).

The Province has contributed $750,000 to help buy an oxygenator. The CRD will be responsible for the system and ongoing maintenance costs. For Beaver Lake a de-stratification system to promote mixing and turnover in the smaller water body is recommended. The Capital Regional District wants to install an oxygenation system in Elk Lake and a de-stratification system in Beaver Lake to improve water quality and reduce toxic blue-green algal blooms. 

Frequently asked questions

Why develop a watershed management plan?

The purpose of the watershed management plan is to reduce sources of nutrients within the watershed that contribute to high nutrient levels in Elk/Beaver Lake.

The management plan will include identifying values, interests and priorities at the lake. It will summarize water quality issues and sources of those issues and key management actions to address them.

What will the watershed management planning process look like?

Public engagement is a key part of developing the watershed management plan and, as a result, the CRD welcomes feedback on this work.

The planning and public engagement process for the watershed management plan includes an initial phase to gather information about the lake to support the development of the plan.

Once the watershed management plan is drafted, additional feedback will be solicited to refine and revise the plan before it is taken to the CRD Board for approval.