Protection of painted turtle habitat and other aquatic vegetation has resulted in the City of Williams Lake receiving a limited permit from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations to use its new lake weed harvester.
The Scout Island boat launch and public beach, Dutch Point boat launch and within the vicinity of the northern shore of the lake near Scout Island will be the only area aquatic vegetation can be removed using the harvester.
Under the permit, the city will also be required to hire a qualified professional that has experience in handling Western Painted Turtles and knowledge of their life cycle who will accompany crews running the harvester.
During the Tuesday, Nov. 17 city council meeting, Mayor Walt Cobb said he doesn’t think the permit goes far enough while Coun. Scott Nelson, who has been spearheading an effort to make the lake more accessible to the public, said he was disappointed.
“We had applied for the entire lake to be done initially and they came back and said ‘no,’ So we applied for half the lake to be done, and what they’ve given us is two little catchments to get started.”
Nelson suggested the city take what it can and then go back and ask to do the entire lake.
“I think the community has been encouraging us as a council to make the lake cleaner, more safer and usable. This plan in front of us just simply doesn’t do it.”
Responding, chief administrative officer Gary Muraca said the ministry is ‘well’ aware the city wants to do a larger area, but said the city will use the existing two-year permit to demonstrate it can be environmentally responsible toward the painted turtles, sturgeon and water fowl.
“In two years we will be putting in for the areas on north and south Lakeside as well,” Muraca added. When Cobb said he thought more of the float plane landing area should be cleared of weeds, Muraca said staff will discuss that with the ministry.
Coun. Sheila Boehm said residents are asking about being able to have weeds removed from in front of their lake properties and asked staff to follow up on whether the city can charge residents for that.
Muraca said the city does not have the ability to address weeds near private properties under the existing permit, noting the timeline for weed removal is from Oct. 15 to freeze up.
The city was given that time frame for the permit as its believed to be the least disruptive to aquatic life.
The city purchased the weed remover earlier in the year, before receiving a permit for use.
During the round table portion of the meeting Nelson encouraged residents to write letters to the city asking for the boundaries to be expanded.