Some of the debris accumulation at the Milburn Lake public access area, which floods most years in the spring, bringing contaminants into local residents’ drinking water. Contributed photo

Rising water levels at Milburn Lake mean rising concerns about water quality, safety

Bouchie Lake Stewardship Society proposes raising ground level in public access area

Lindsay Chung

Observer Contributor

Milburn Lake is flooding at the boat access once again this spring, but what’s different about this year is the Bouchie Lake Stewardship Society has funding to do something about it.

David Law works with the Bouchie Lake Stewardship Society (BLSS) and explains they are concerned with the water quality for Bouchie Lake, Milburn Lake and the watershed area, which is about 20 km west of Quesnel.

“We have a string of priorities,” says Law.

“One is reducing the algae growth on Bouchie Lake and the quantity of weeds.”

The Milburn Lake boat access is an area of concern for the BLSS when it comes to water quality and safety.

“Every year when the lake rises in the spring, that area floods,” says Law.

“It sweeps all the contaminants into the water. When the lake rises, the lake turns, so the water gets naturally cloudy. There are about 11 houses on the lakeshore, and most of those take water from the lake to use in their homes because the groundwater has a lot of iron in it. It’s a good fishing lake and a good swimming lake. For these reasons, we want to keep it as clear as possible.”

There are garbage cans and an outhouse on site, but Law says throughout the year, with use, garbage tends to collect in the access.

“When the water rises, it tends to wash all that into the lake,” he says.

Law says the flooding also adds a safety concern in that public access area because the high water level reduces access to the lake, which means people using the lake have to park on the road.

The BLSS is proposing raising the ground level in the public access area so that it is above the high-water line and will allow the public access area to be high and dry throughout the year, and some recent funding will help move that project forward.

The project, which essentially involves dumping a large amount of gravel into the access area to raise the ground level, will cost around $97,000, as it will need roughly 100 loads of gravel.

The BLSS received $2,500 from Fortis BC, through its Community Investment Program, to put toward the cost. Law says the society is contracting Quesnel River Environmental to oversee the project, and the first step is to put together a prescription plan, which will give a more precise estimate of costs and the materials needed.

The society is also hoping to beautify the area after the ground is raised, installing picnic tables and planting shade trees. They want to clearly delineate areas for swimming, boat launching and parking.

Law is not sure when the work will take place. They are hoping if the prescription plan is completed in the spring, BLSS could find more grants and work could begin in the fall, he explains. But they need more funds to get the project off the ground.

Historically, Law says Milburn Lake flooded across the road in 2008. In 2013, local residents sent a petition to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure saying something needed to be done, but Law says the ministry told residents there was no funding.

“Originally, when we had that petition in 2013, we kind of expected the Ministry of Transportation would find a budget to find a solution,” says Law.

“There was a hope they might do that, but it seems not forthcoming.”

Law says the BLSS also received a $1,000 budget allocation from the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) to put up a sign at the Milburn Lake boat access, which he says will have many benefits.

“The reason the CRD gave us funding for it is to ask the public to take care of the area and keep it clean,” he says.

The sign will also be used to inform the public of the BLSS’ plans for the area, to provide recognition to supporters like Fortis BC and to share information about water stewardship and good lakeshore practices.

Law says they are waiting for permission from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to put up the sign.

The BLSS was incorporated as a society in 2016 and now has between 50 and 60 members.

“We’ve been busy applying for grants to go toward working on the project,” says Law.

“It felt good to get a little bit of money to get started and to feel like some progress is being made. Obviously, we are looking for more support.”

Law says some years, if there is a low snowfall, Milburn Lake doesn’t flood, but right now, flooding is right up to the road, and the water level is probably a metre higher than the access level. He says it will take until the end of July for the water level to drop and for people to have access to the lake again.

“It’s been an issue for many, many years, and people keep saying something should be done,” says Law.

“Now, with a society sponsoring it, hopefully something can be done.”

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