Thursday, 24 November 2016

Challange 4!

Hello again and welcome to my latest GWC blog.

For this challenge we were asked to read everyone else's blogs and reflect on common themes and what I've learned about there watersheds. 

One thing that really stood out to me was how much more developed and populated the watersheds of my fellow participants are.  The Lesser Slave Watershed is relatively undeveloped not even hosting a major city.  Where as the Greater Toronto Area Watershed and Pacific Coast watershed are both home to areas of dense population  and bustling urban centres.  Despite these differences I also noticed a lot of common themes. From a love and passion for water to concerns on quality and quantity even if the specific issues may change based on location the problems and worries seam to flow through all of our watersheds.

When I think about water in my future and the future of  water both in High Prairie and Canada as a whole I am hopful.  I feel like we are coming up to a turning point in which people are beginning to realize that water is a vital resource that we cannot keep taking for granted.   it can be easy to turn on the tap for a glass of water and not think about where thst water is coming from or how our activities can impact it.

In my mind everything we do is connected to water whether directly or indirectly.  To showcase this I've been taking photos of water as I encounter it throughout my vacation. The photos span from Northern Alberta south to Utah and capture moments where I was wowed by the power and beauty of water. Along with reminded of its vital importance to all of us. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Challenge 3

Working with the Lesser Slave Watershed Council I am frequently a part of meetings, gatherings and presentations themed around water, environmental stewardship and of course watershed planning and management.   A large portion of my job involves outreach and education meaning I often act as guest speaker or presenter in classrooms and community meetings.   Because of this I was initially unsure how to go about organizing a gathering for challenge 3 as the majority of the people I interact with are already involved in the world of watersheds; and I wanted a chance to reach and work with people outside of my normal circle of watershed and environment colleague. 

Then finally it hit me, I had just recently joined a new group that met frequently for nights of board games and conversation.  As I was newer to the group we'd never really had an in depth discussion of my work or passion for our water.  I excitedly put together a plan to host everyone for a night of great discussion, games and pizza. 

We started out the night with a brief discussion about Waterlution and the Great Waters Challenge and then launched right into some watershed talk.   To give everyone some background information we watched a short video on the Lesser Slave Watershed:  I was able to bring stewardship handbooks (a guide to Lesser Slave Lake, its ecology and history etc.) for everyone courtesy of the Lesser Slave Watershed Council and everyone seamed excited to have something to take home with them.  

After watching the video and some general discussion on how watersheds work and why access to water is so important we took turns sharing some of our favorite water memories from the area.  I found this discussion really enlightening because unlike me the majority of the others had grown up in the area and had many fond memories of spending summers on the lake, falls scouring the many bogs and fens for cranberries to make into jam and jelly for Thanksgiving and then heading out to onto the ice with augers and fishing rods all winter.   We spoke about the constant rise and fall of lake levels and how the good fishing spots have shifted throughout the years and seasons.   

We concluded our discussions with a brainstorming session for a responsible ice fishing behaviors information sheet I've been working on.  It was a good time coming up with ideas for how to catch people attention and what to focus on for the information sheet; and by the end of it I had a whole pile of suggestions that I was able to take back to work with me and incorporate into the design.  I've attached the latest draft of the information sheet below. 


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Challenge 2

Although I love learning from people around me and exploring my surroundings I am at heart a science person.  I like to understand the why and how of what is going on around me and because of that I chose to go with option 2 for this challenge.  However I have incorporated important landmarks such as the Weir on the Lesser Slave River and the anecdotes and responses from lake users and long term citizens of the area.

Water Levels have frequently been an issue of concern for the people residing on or around Lesser Slave Lake.  So much so that in 1983 a weir was installed over the outflow to the Lesser Slave River on the East Basin of the Lake.  The intent of the weir instillation was to help mitigate the effects of flooding and decrease the amount of fluctuation in lake water levels.

The instillation of the weir had the unintended consequences of disrupting and changing downstream flows of the Lesser Slave River.  This is most noticeably in the winter months when on occasion the river froze solid preventing downstream flow, causing a host of problems including low water levels and low levels of dissolved oxygen in the remaining water.

For a number of years siphons were installed in the fall it keep water flowing over the winter.  However this installation was costly and dangerous so this year the Government of Alberta installed a flow gate which can be raised to allow 6 cubes of water per second to flow downstream.  6 cubes was determined to be the amount required to maintain a healthy dissolved oxygen content downstream.   The hope is that the gate will only have to be used during extraordinarily dry years.

Information on the Lesser Slave River and weir from: LSWC

Photos credit: Lesser Slave Watershed Council archives

Lake Levels are also a large issue of concern when it comes to public recreation.  Lesser Slave Lake is a very popular fishing destination and there is a large tourism industry built around getting visitors and there boats out onto the lake.   Because of where our watershed is located we don't have glacial headwaters and because of this are dependent on snow melt and precipitation to replenish lake and stream levels.  Last winter was a very mild winter leading to almost no snow melt so lake levels have been a hot topic over the last year.

There are multiple Harbors and Marianas around the lake which generally allow for lots of access points for recreational users   After talking with several people though I heard story upon story of how no one was able to get there boats into the water until mid June due to extremely low water levels.  Thankfully in June a large rain came to the area raising the water level dramatically and allowing boats to be launched with ease.

A common thread I found when speaking with people about lake levels was that residents who had lived in the area less then 10 years saw spring of 2016's low water levels as a terrifying and new situation.  Where as residence who had grown up in the area and had family who had settled or been living here for generations were much less surprised at the low levels.  In many cases stated that this was nothing and that in the early 90s the lake was so low you could practically drive across  The Narrows (a channel that connects the East and West Basins of the  lake together)  

                                                                                                 Map created by the Government of Alberta

When it comes down to it, it seams that due to our geographical location and the unpredictable nature of our weather and climate the lake will always be prone to fluctuating water levels, even if that fluctuation has been slightly evened out due to the construction on the weir.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Challenge 1

Hello Great Waters Community!  My name is Kaylyn Jackson, I'm from High Prairie Alberta, I've only been up here for about a year but have lived in Alberta for almost my whole life.  I'm a settler and second generation Canadian with my family originally immigrating from the Czech Republic.  The Land I'm currently living on was originally Cree territory and is now a part of Treaty 8.

As a scuba diver, paddler, fisher-woman and environmental educator I have always felt a strong connection to freshwater and my watershed.    For the Past 3 years I have been working on scuba diving as many of Alberta's lakes as possible,  Last summer I had a chance to get up close and personal with Waterton Lake in Southern Alberta.  As Alberta's deepest lake and arguably one of the best diving lakes in the province I was ecstatic.  One on of my dives we decided to go deep and decided along the rocky wall of a shoreline to a depth of 117 feet.  all around me I could feel the cold pressure of the water and looking to the surface all I could see was a distant glimmer of sunlight peering through the blue green gloom.  looking out ahead a three foot long lake trout swam through the meager beam of my flashlight completely unconcerned that we strange creatures had invaded its underwater world. As we began our assent and got closer to the surface I scanned my flashlight along the silty rock covered bottom to be greeted by a fantastic sight.  wriggling in the beam of my flashlight were thousands of fry, young newly hatched fish, covering the bottom of the lake. The whole swim back up to the shore I was amazed my the shear volume of fry that were present in the lake and honored to have been able to see such an amazing sight.

I signed up for this challenge to help get more in touch with my watershed and local water issues.  I currently work as the Watershed Coordinator with the Lesser Slave Watershed Council and am always looking for new and exciting ways to learn about our water and help pass on the knowledge and excitement to those around me.

I live in the East/West Prairie Rivers Sub-Basin of the Lesser Slave Watershed.   Our headwaters originate in the Swan Hills and we are unique because we have no glacial headwaters and are based around a lake rather than a river system.  All of the water within our watershed eventually travels out the east side of the lake and flows into the Lesser Slave River traveling roughly 75km before leaving our watershed and joining up with the Athabasca River and making it's way North.

We have a multitude of issues and challenges surrounding our local watershed; from lake levels,  degradation of shoreline, fishing and recreational usage, nutrient loading and sedimentation.  Sedimentation is one of the challenges I am most concerned about because its been an ongoing issue due to the channelization of many of our rivers and streams back in the 1970s.

I look forward to participating in the Great Waters Challenge and Learning more about my own local waters along with water and watershed's across Canada.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

It's Time To Talk About Water!

Hey everyone!  My name is Kaylyn and I live in the Lesser Slave Watershed in Northern Alberta, I'm going to be participating in the Great Waters Challenge 2016-17 and this is the best way for you to follow along!

Stay tuned for more awesome updates and to learn all about water!