Where is Muriel Lake Going?

It’s really no secret Muriel Lake is losing water, quite drastically, in fact. What is a secret is where is the water going and why is this happening to the once plentiful body of water? The Muriel Lake Basin Management Society (MLBMS) hopes to answer both those questions, and soon, before more water is lost. President of the society, Peter Cordingley says the group is made up of residents of and around Muriel Lake who all want the same common goal, to restore the lake.

The lake, now half its original size, no longer has fish, there are no wildlife in the area, and no recreational activities on the water.  Not only is the lake too shallow to enjoy recreational activities in, it also has very high levels of toxic microcystin, known as blue-green algae. A study done by LakeWatch in 2015 found Muriel Lake to have 16 times higher concentrations of microcystin, explains Cordingley, “of all the lakes they tested, ours was the highest for blue-green algae. It’s one of the symptoms of a lake that’s in decline.” Lakewatch studied other health factors such as phosphorus levels; Muriel Lake was “historically high” in 2015.

“Our lake is losing water levels, there’s no outflow, there’s only inflow and the temperature of the lake is rising,” Cordingley says these factors contribute to the high levels of microcystin and phosphorus. “The declining health of our lake is a result of the blue-green algae.”

One of the believed reasons for why the lake is going down is surface disturbances, explains Cordingley, “roads, dams, and culverts; there’s just so many of them. Rectifying each one is an improvement, but it’s going to take a lot of time.”

The group has conducted many studies over the years to help determine what is happening with the lake, one of those studies was done through aerial photographs. This was one of the best in discovering what was happening with the lake, explains Cordingley. “It was a very primarily study, where [researchers] looked at past aerial photographs versus more modern photographs and satellite imagines. They were able to point of several areas where we need to examine further; where areas had changed over time.” It’s great knowledge to have, though Cordingley says there is still a lot of ground work that needs to be done to determine why those specific areas have altered so drastically. “We need to work on the ground to see if there’s something blocking the water.” One of those blockages is Highway 657 (Murphy Road), “they put the highway in where there was a body of water and the water body moved; is that important or not? That’s something that needs further work.”

Another area of concern for the lake has been beavers, MLBMS is pleased to say the Municipal District (MD) of Bonnyville is assisting with a beaver initiative to help clear some dams that may be blocking water flow. “One of our bigger activities, we’re going to try to get approval and install control devices for the beaver dams in the major creeks into our lakes. The creeks are all dammed up, these will allow the level of the pond to be maintain constantly. It won’t harm the beaver, the beaver will be happy, but any new rain will flow through this pipe and into the lake.” Cordingley says the group is going after a grant for $39,000 over three years to complete this project, “that will allow us to start building these beaver control level rises and hopefully, deliver more water into the lake.” The MD has approved the installation of these devices, explains Cordingley.

Another project the society has been working with the MD on is clearing more culverts, says Cordingley. “There’s some places we’ve identified that culverts are full of debris and it’s restricting water flow to the lake.”  The society is very hopeful that with the MD’s corporation in the beaver initiative and clearing of culverts the lake will begin to retain and perhaps even gain water.

The struggle comes down can the lake be restored and if so, is there enough time to do it. Many of the over 400 residents have grown tired of the declining levels and the hardship of gaining attention for the lake. Many more have given up, which is evident in the number of for sale signs that scratter properties along the lake. Cordingley, who’s summered at Muriel Lake since 1990, isn’t ready to call it quits and hope the society is able to finally get the answers they desperately need. Where is the Muriel Lake going?