With the May long weekend around the corner, which typically kicks off the busy tourist season in this part of the province, the Lake Diefenbaker Task Force (LDTF) Against Zebra Mussels is doing all it can to be ready to protect local waters over the next few months.
The group was formed just over a year ago with the mission of protecting Lake Diefenbaker from all manner of invasive aquatic species, namely zebra mussels, which can have a devastating effect on a lake’s ecosystem and cause irreparable damage to water-related infrastructure.
The mussels also cling to boats and can be near impossible to remove, with the only known deterrent being exceptionally hot water. No chemical is known to completely destroy them, but reports say there is progress being made in that area.
The LDTF not only serves to protect Lake Diefenbaker, but also the downstream lakes such as Buffalo Pound, Last Mountain and the Qu’Appelle Lakes, as well as the communities on the South Saskatchewan River flowing north.
Over May 1 and 2, the task force hosted meetings with its members at Hitchcock Hideaway and the Douglas Provincial Park office, respectively. The meetings shed a light on the progress that was made in 2018 and informed people of where things were headed for the upcoming year. Those in attendance at these meetings came from a wide variety of connecting communities who benefit from Lake Diefenbaker in one way or another, which pleased LDTF Chair Joanne Brochu and Lynne Saas, a Coordinator of Member Services for PARCS (Provincial Association of Resort Communities of Saskatchewan).
“I think I can say that all communities are within our clutches now, which is wonderful,” said Lynne.
Among the LDTF’s achievements in 2018 highlighted at the meetings:
- Setting up information signs at each community entrance and boat launch, along with a Citizens on Alert system to speak with owners of out-of-province boats;
- Raising money to purchase two decontamination stations to be set up on the lake;
- Collaborating with the province AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) coordinator who trained LDTF volunteer inspectors and advised about public communications;
- Distributing print information to every household, either by hand or bulk mail, and information sheets to boaters, as well as recruiting local Co-ops to hand out pamphlets at eight perimeter community service stations.
The formation of the group that has such a concentrated directive to protect the lake was perhaps a timely one, as two boats (one a houseboat, the other a sailboat) that were headed for the harbour in Elbow were intercepted by the LDTF last summer and found to be infected. They were referred to the province for quarantine and the decontamination process.
“That really made us aware of the risk we were facing, and it really made us want to step up our efforts,” said Joanne, touching on the incident.
For the upcoming season, the LDTF has beefed up their program, including providing grants to four communities so that staff can be hired at the busiest boat launches, printing 5,000 rack cards as well as windshield stickers to hand out to boaters, and setting up a zebra mussel hotline number.
This hotline number can be reached at 1-306-832-5383 (LDTF), and the task force hopes the number will be used by out-of-province visitors before they launch any watercraft into the lake.
The rack cards will contain basic information on the LDTF, while the windshield stickers will go on boats in which staff have already engaged with the visitor.
As well, the LDTF plans to have a “high presence” during big events on the lake such as fishing derbies, especially due to the fact that such events draw boaters from out of the province. Getting the information out to the people is going to be the big key to ensuring that only clean boats are launched into Lake Diefenbaker.
While the work continues to help protect the lake from invasive species, there are causes for optimism, according to Saas.
“Saskatchewan has the best program at the border,” she said, commending the province for its ability to halt any progression of invasive species. “That system on our border works really well.”
The other cause for optimism is the LDTF itself, which is seen as something of a ‘first of its kind’ group, comprised of communities that are dedicated to protecting such a vitally-important body of water.
“This is a very coordinated program, and it’s growing, and I commend all of you for what you’re doing,” said Lynne.
While the work continues by the LDTF on spreading the word and protecting Lake Diefenbaker, they ask that visitors and boaters do their respective part to ensure local waters are kept free of invasive species.