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Ricinus

Muir Lake Winterkill

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Does anyone want to tell the background of what happened with Muir, Millers......et al?

 

Are the government news reports explaining the reasons for the kills acceptable?

 

And, What really happened for this incident to occur?

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And when the explanation does come out - can everyone keep it about the lake and the next steps, instead of blaming it on the NDP too? #justsayin

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Unfortunately haters gotta hate and will vent in any public forum regardless. Ditto the PETA sycophants who simply don't understand the valid place angling has in our society and the human psyche, as well as those who have their own agenda and will plunk their soapbox down anywhere. Fortunately there were some on line commenters on the Journal article that tried facts to put things in perspective. As far as going forward is concerned, there needs to be a milt-pronged approach. Firstly ACA and Alberta Environment need to find a short term solution better than not aerating or the inadequate one tried last winter. Secondly, the specific clause in the law needs to be amended to allow a "due dilligence" defence. A criminal charge should not follow an unfortunate event where stupidity, obstinance or recklessness by the "victim" are the primary cause. In my view, anyone who ignores warning signs, crosses fences or other barriers, to approach what is clearly a dangerous situation does so at their own risk. Doing so would be like charging a building owner of a base jumper commits similar trespass to jump to their death from the roof.

Edited by dave robinson

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The thing that is hardest to swallow is surface aeration was as normal in BC, Manitoba, and parts of Alberta. It appears the only areas that didn't, were the Edmonton Edson and Rocky. area lakes. My question is how come..

 

Mike

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There's a lot to the story and I can't fault Rachel or Shannon personally but in short here's what I understand happened:

Last August ACA became aware of Section 263 of the Criminal Code. It got two separate legal opinions both stating that ACA could be liable for criminal charges (including manslaughter) if someone was injured/died as a result of making a hole in the ice. Both also stated that there was no 'due diligence' defence - no matter what warnings or protection were set up, if someone (or their dog) was hurt, person(s) responsible for causing the hole in the ice would be liable. The ACA CEO decided he could not therefore ask his staff to continue their current aeration practice. Regardless of reckless idiots, a child for example, (maybe illiterate, maybe mentally challenged) could potentially be harmed They looked for an alternative and decided to try super saturating the lakes with oxygen prior to ice-up and then to install a bubble diffuser system along with the construction of 40' x 40' platforms, completely covered over with wiring to cover the polynia (the open water area created by the aeration). By the time this was built and ready to go ice had formed on the lakes but they found a way to install the system on numerous lakes - Muir, Millers, Beaver, Ironside etc - soon after. This was somewhat experimental and they soon experienced problems. The polynia often grew larger than the area contained by the platforms, necessitating periodic shutdowns of the system to allow the polynia to shrink; the underwater hose at Millers developed a leak, they couldn't get a platform into the southern end of Muir, the water depth in many of the lakes was insufficient for sufficient oxygen to diffuse into the water before the bubbles reached the surface, etc. In Muir, for example, it was estimated that when the diffuser was running the lake was receiving only a quarter of the O2 previous provided by the former surface aeration system. Result - low O2 levels in late winter and substantial fish kills.

Meanwhile, AEP rushed through an aeration policy but too late and insufficient to remedy the situation. The government fisheries biologists in Peace River (perhaps somewhat in defiance of their own department policy, after all it was ACA's responsibility not AEP's) decided they did not want their lakes to be put at risk and ran the surface aerators anyway. A couple of the municipal districts in that area made the same decision to assume responsibility. They, along with virtually ever other province, were skeptical of the risks (no one had been charged specifically re a hole in the ice in the 60+ years this law had been on the books). What remains unanswered is why the AEP Fisheries staff in other areas of the province did not follow the lead of their colleagues in Peace River and help with the problem. A criminal lawyer with interest in Spring Lake (Stony Plain) thought the ACA's legal opinion was bs and assumed personal responsibility for running the surface aeration there with ACA providing the equipment and paying the electric bill. The ACA CEO provided the legal opinions to fisheries officials in other provinces but they did not seem to share the immediate concern although I understand were mostly willing to advocate with Alberta for a change to the Criminal Code Section 263

Could the Gov. of Alberta itself have assumed the liability? Not sure. But it did later get a separate legal opinion from its own Solicitor General Department that basically said there's no way it would lay charges against ACA as long as they installed signs and fencing as they had previously done and that there was in fact a due diligence defence under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Problem with this I understand is that ACA was allowed to read this opinion but were not, as last I heard, permitted to have a copy for their own protection.

Was ACA overly cautious? Was AEP non supportive? Are there some jealousies between the two? Is there a serious disconnect between Fisheries Policy branch and the Fisheries Operations biologists etc. I've sensed all of these things in talking to staff of both organizations but I suspect we'll never know for sure Regardless, the issue now of course is what next. I know discussions between ACA and AEP have been ongoing but towards what resolution I don't know. Hopefully we will find out more at the Fisheries Roundtable meeting on May 7th. ACA has committed to aerating all of its 16 lakes next winter and they now know that bubble diffusion is not the solution. The Criminal Code cannot be amended in time and there may not be a federal appetite to do so anyway despite the interesting fact that the feds provide grants for lake aeration projects!

The loss of Muir hurts especially hard given all the work and fundraising and volunteer hours that went into creating a fishery that won a National Recreational Fisheries Award. The hatchery has some slightly larger rainbows (25cms) which it will put in Muir this May but it will be 3 years at least I believe before we get to see 20+ inch fish again (and only then if the aeration issue is solved).

Hope this helps fill in some of the background as I understand it.

Peter

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If I can add to Peter's post, I have just received a response to a letter I wrote to Shannon Phillips stating the Peace area reallocated resources from other projects to take over aeration from the ACA in that area. The other affected areas did not have enough notice, resources or staff to do the same.

 

The following is an excerpt:

 

 

The Alberta Government is taking the Alberta Conservation Association’s actions this past season seriously and there will be a review of the Alberta Conservation Association’s aeration program to ensure surface aerators are in place to reduce fish loss next winter. A Memorandum of Understanding with the Alberta Conservation Association is coming up for review and Alberta Environment and Parks wants the new Memorandum of Understanding to have the necessary provisions to ensure such situations are avoided in the future.

 

 

Mike

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in Spring Lake (Stony Plain) .... with ACA providing the equipment and paying the electric bill.

 

That's pretty darn generous for them to foot the bill.....ACA dollars going to a lake that not everyone can fish. Just awesome.

 

J

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in Spring Lake (Stony Plain) .... with ACA providing the equipment and paying the electric bill.

 

That's pretty darn generous for them to foot the bill.....ACA dollars going to a lake that not everyone can fish. Just awesome.

 

J

 

Hmm, Jokey, why can't everyone fish Spring Lake? To my knowledge it's not a private lake, but perhaps I am mistaken?

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DragonTroller

 

Because there is very limited access for the public. The only public access is a walk in path from the village. Not suitable to launch anything more than carrying in a float tube on your back. The last time I used the path to just chuck a few flies from shore I was threatened to be charged with trespassing as I started to walk the shoreline to the side of where the path meets the lake. The only other access is to pay your membership fee and get a key from the ETC. Why should we have to pay to fish a lake that our license dollars already support to some extent?

 

There used to be public access via the RV Park but after abuse and litter the owner closed that. Can't say I blame them for that but to not have proper access to fishery supported by the ACA seems to be in direct conflict with the underlying premise of the ACA itself.

 

Rubs me the wrong way

 

J

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Ah I see, I've never fished the lake only swam at the beach when I was a kid. If there is a public path to the lake, then Spring has similar access to many lakes that are walk in only and stocked. Sardine and east pit come to mind, as well as others that are surrounded by private land with only limited access such as Shemeluck. I can see why you would be miffed if you were threatened but not sure you can blame the ACA for that, however the ACA may well be to blame for the fact that there are limited areas close to Edmonton to fish for decent trout now.

 

I personally think they should stock less fish, and put more dollars into water retention and recovery and grow less fish faster and bigger but I'm a sucker for a big rainbow! If many of the lakes had more water and less phosphorous we would be better off and wouldn't need to pump air. perhaps we should pump water not air?

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Ah I see, I've never fished the lake only swam at the beach when I was a kid. If there is a public path to the lake, then Spring has similar access to many lakes that are walk in only and stocked.

 

I agree....and if the lake had similar opportunities as East Pit then you would hear no objection from me. If the shoreline was wide open, or at least open a fair amount then I would be fine with it. However, if you can't even walk and fish 5 meters from where the path meets the lake....is it really open to public fishing? I'm not miffed at the ACA for some cabin owner getting fiesty....thats merely me showing that you cant walk the shore to fish so you are stuck in an extremely small spot to fish. It's not even worth the walk in.

 

In some circles the ETC is viewed as profiting from this venture as well. A couple guys mentioned this to me when I was tying at Cabelas a couple years ago. If I was part of the ETC upper echelon I would be worried about being viewed as making a buck off of a publicly funded resource that in fact benefits the Club far more than the public. That would be a PR nightmare for everyone involved.

 

When it comes right down to it I just don't think the ACA should be involved with a fishery unless there is equal access for all. And Spring just doesn't qualify when you look at the details.

 

I would be all for the ACA looking at keeping more water the in lakes themselves. A solution like that would eliminate or reduce the aeration needs. I think that's a great idea.

 

J

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Solicitor General Department basically said there's no way it would lay charges against ACA as long as they installed signs and fencing as they had previously done and that there was in fact a due diligence defence under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

So basically the ACA screwed up our fisheries.....thanks guys....

 

 

btw, get some new lawyers..

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No comment on Spring but re Muir - Fisheries netted the lake and found no fish at all. Have requested stocking numbers to be doubled at least to try to get it off to a renewed start but it will depend on numbers of fish available from the hatchery.

Peter

P.S. They also netted Jackfish and found that at least some walleye and pike survived.

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Well, I'll play some devil's advocate here since I'm seeing Jokey real soon and he can take me task in person! lol :PAnd yet...the lake isn't totally private, right? There is actually still public access, yes? I agree, the shoreline access sucks, true, one would have to concede that point entirely. But! There are plenty of lakes in Alberta where shoreline fishing is limited. Does it make a huge difference if the limitations are because (1) of private property or (2) the shoreline just sucks to fish from; i.e., too many trees, no backcasting room, too shallow, too many shoreline reeds and bushes etc...Case in point; I went to the Leduc Reservoir for the first time in my life the other day. Well...I didn't have my boat with me and guess what? Shore fishing sucks for the fly caster! Very few areas. And this is a public fishery close to a million people, that's best fished from a boat. Ok, I digress.

 

I think where the crux of the matter is access to the lake itself. As Jokey pointed out, you could still launch a personal watercraft there, yes? (I haven't been there yet). In other words, if the public were truly excluded from fishing Spring Lake, then I would say yes, absolutely, ACA public dollars shouldn't be used. The residents themselves should pay for the stockings. In other words, I choose to see a difference (probably to salve a 10% guilty conscience here, lol) between, say, a gated community where no else is allowed and is totally private and cutoff from the public versus a fishery like Spring Lake where public access is difficult. I'm just saying difficult shoreline fishing access doesn't stop our dollars from stocking other lakes.

I'll re-iterate, just a little devil's advocacy there. Yes, I am the devil.Mike

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Have requested stocking numbers to be doubled at least to try to get it off to a renewed start

 

Posted Image

no,no,no.

 

You don't fix one screw up with another. You'll decimate the aquatic organisms before they even have half a chance to recover.

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Mike

 

It's all good. There is no "I'm right and you're Fing wrong" with me.

 

Yes you could still realistically launch a float tube from the end of the walking path....but that's pretty much it.

 

If Spring had some better shoreline access for folks I would not be complaining. Look at Star....most of the lake shore is not accessible and yet a couple dozen folks and families show up to fish that place every weekend. Not more than 2-3 individuals can realistically fish the spot where the walk in path meets the lake. How can a lake be supported by license dollars and be included in the mantle of the ACA whose mission states "ACA conserves, protects and enhances fish and wildlife populations and their habitats for Albertans to enjoy, value and use."

 

Should that statement be amended to say "...habitats for Albertans with float tubes or the money to pony up for a key to the locked gate"?

 

I guess when you get right down to details it is also not right that the RV park there could be seen as profiting from ACA license dollars.

 

Like I said...it's all good Mike. And later today when I suggest putting your hand in the dubbing machine....just do it. ;)

 

J

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That's hilarious! I hadn't even read this reply and I still put my hand in the dubbing machine. Too funny, lol.

 

Its hard to debate a guy when he makes good points. As I've said elsewhere, we should all be advocating for more public fisheries, both on a QSF approach and a put and take approach.

 

Province has gone from 1 million people to 4 million in my life time. As the amount of public fisheries increased by the same? No, of course not, that would be an impossibility. But, we ought to have more fisheries, and they should be easily (key word) be publicly accessible. :)

 

If Spring Lake does morph / evolve into some completely 100% private property with public funded fishery, then I think that will be a huge problem.

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Your argument, Pierre, that if there are more trout than normal stocked this year in Muir "You'll decimate the aquatic organisms before they even have half a chance to recover" is not supported by the science. Two senior fisheries biologists have both told me that low oxygen levels have very little effect on the biomass in the lake and that the fish kill may well have a beneficial effect on the lake's aquatic organisms as it reduced predation. Further, even if the stocking numbers were doubled this spring there would still be fewer fish in the lake than if there had been no winterkill. We've been making stocking recommendations for Muir for the past 12 years and they're not done without consultation. However, extra fish are in demand across the province and it's doubtful anyway if the hatchery can provide more, at least this Spring.

Peter

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Found this

 

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