Current status

Two plans are currently underway to address high nutrient levels in Elk/Beaver Lake. These plans aim to reduce frequency of blue-green algae, improve fish habitat and manage growth of Eurasian milfoil.

The development of a watershed management plan is underway 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. CRD staff are currently facilitating a public engagement process to develop the plan to address this source of nutrients. Please sign up to register for a workshop on Sept 26 and Oct 3 (7:30-9pm) at the Saanich Commonwealth Place to have your voice heard and to be a part of the solution. Following these workshops, staff will develop a draft plan that will be made available to the public for review prior to going to the CRD Board for approval.

The development of an in-lake remediation plan is also 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 (go to Section 8.9 19-755 Elk/Beaver Lake Remediation).

Staff are now working to develop a funding plan to support the project and plan to publish a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop a detailed remediation plan (sizing and siting) this fall/winter.

Public feedback

Public engagement is a key part of developing the CRD's watershed management plan for Elk/Beaver Lake to address external sources of nutrients and, as a result, the CRD welcomes feedback on this work. A public info session was held on July 31, 2019.

The next engagement opportunity for residents are public workshops in the fall. Register for a workshop on one of these dates:

Following this initial input from residents, a management plan will be drafted and made public.

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. Learn more about the Elk/Beaver Lake Watershed and related Environmental Concerns.

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).

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.

Additional Information 

Contact Us

Please email Jill Robinson, Elk/Beaver Lake Initiative Coordinator, for more information.

Other Resources