Current status

The Elk/Beaver Lake Initiative was established by the CRD in 2016 in partnership with an intergovernmental working group (IWG) 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 Elk/Beaver Lake Watershed and related Environmental Concerns.

External sources of nutrients come from urban development, forestry and agriculture surrounding the lake. These external sources of nutrients will be addressed in a watershed management plan, developed through a public engagement process. CRD staff, in partnership with the IWG, is currently focused on facilitating a public engagement process to develop the watershed management plan.

An in-lake remediation plan will be developed to address internal sources of nutrients. These nutrients have accumulated over decades in the lake bottom sediments and are continually recycled back into the water column. The in-lake remediation process is guided by expert consultants and the IWG.

The CRD is coordinating efforts to support the in-lake remediation plan through identifying critical gaps in our understanding of the lakes, gathering the necessary data to fill those gaps and developing a detailed in-lake remediation plan to address internal nutrient sources. More detail on this process is found below.

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.

There are two ways for capital region residents to learn more and provide feedback on this plan:
•   Attend a public info session in person on July 31.
•   Participate in a public engagement workshop in the summer. Dates, details and registration to follow.

Following initial public feedback, a draft management plan will be made public and opportunities to provide feedback will be supported in the fall and winter. Feedback received will be shared with the CRD Board.

Background

Elk/Beaver Lake is a significant natural asset and is the most heavily-used regional park.

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 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, intergovernmental working group and technical expertise, 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 project team will then make recommendations to the CRD Board on the most appropriate in-lake solution.

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