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Silt level in Idlewild Lake backing up Joseph Creek

Silt buildup in Idlewild Lake has caused Joseph Creek to overflow its banks and carve new channels in the area where it enters the lake. The section of the creek pictured above is on Peter Kleindienst’s property. - Barry Coulter photo
Silt buildup in Idlewild Lake has caused Joseph Creek to overflow its banks and carve new channels in the area where it enters the lake. The section of the creek pictured above is on Peter Kleindienst’s property.
— image credit: Barry Coulter photo

A Cranbrook area resident whose property backs on to Idlewild Park is expressing serious concerns about the state of man-made Idlewild Lake, and the problems he says are being caused by the fact that the lake hasn't been dredged in many years, something that is necessary for the health of the lake and the integrity of the surrounding land.

Indeed, Idlewild Lake was designed to be dredged regularly, of silt build-up and a system to allow Joseph Creek to bypass the lake while dredging was undertaken was incorporated into the lake's original design.

However, Peter Kleindienst, who lives on the last private property where the creek goes into the lake,  says the lake hasn't been dredged for more than 20 years, and the resulting silt build-up has left the lake shallow and malodorous, and caused the creek to backup on Kleinsdienst's property.

"The deepest part of the lake is only two feet," Kleindienst said. "By only having two feet of water, there are virtually no fish left. Plus, the vegetation growth is so great, the plants grow so easily, that there's a smell resulting from dying vegetation. Which is one reason they're keeping the water level so high. Around the lake you can see the trees dying, because the trees are underwater."

The amount of sediment in the lake is slowing the streamflow, Kleindienst said, so instead of dropping sediment in the lake, it's dropping the sediment in the portion of the creek that runs through Kleindienst's property.

“The creek bed on my property has risen one-and-a-half to two feet. Part of my field is under water, turning it into a swamp. The backside of a cottonwood grove on my property is underwater. A big wind could bring those trees down, onto my house.”

And a portion of the path by the lake is is under water.

“The whole creek has created new channels behind the lake,” Kleindienst added. “It’s taken the topsoil off the top of the banks. Trees have fallen over.”

Kleindienst said the problem has been noticeable for about three years, and that he’s been in communication with the city for about two.

“Idlewild Lake was originally built by the City of Cranbrook to be dredged,” he said. “It has a rock base so a machine can be driven in there. It has a bypass system to divert the water while they dredge. No one knows if it’s still operable. But in this day and age there are ways. The creek can be diverted, for example, using a pump.”

Kleindienst has expressed grave concerns about the lack of movement on the issue.

Kleindienst said he has gone to the City several times. “They’ve been at my place, they’ve had meetings about Idlewild Lake, we’ve met at Idlewild Lake. They totally agree. We have to dredge the lake. It’s a problem. But I always get the same answer. There’s a budget problem. I’m not arguing with that. But I think lately the spending priorities are misplaced.

“There are a lot of ways of getting funding so that the City doesn’t have to bear the brunt of the cost,” Kleindienst said. “But application has to be made for that. As far as I know, nobody has made that application.”

The City of Cranbrook is looking at the issue,  and seeing how it can balance the work needed on the lake and the dam at the lake’s southern end with its numerous funding infrastructure priorities.

“Council is aware of the problem and staff has been meeting with Mr. Kleindienst to discuss possible solutions,” said Mayor Wayne Stetski. “The dam that creates Idlewild Lake needs work and the lake itself is subject to ongoing sediment loading from Joseph Creek.

“These will be expensive projects and Council needs to determine where they fit among the many other priorities that need attention.”

Kleindienst said an official with the Ministry of Environment told him he would help fast track the paperwork. “But the City has to make the initial application. It’s the same thing to get permission to do it. They have to get permission from all the agencies — Fish and Wildlife, the Water Branch, etc.  That hasn’t been done either over the past three years.”

If the dredging to be accomplished this year, Kleindienst said, the City would have to set things in motion right away.

“The only window you have is the last two weeks of August, really,” he said. “Everything’s got to be in place by then.”

Stetski said the City would indeed need funding assistance from the Federal and/or Provincial governments, “but so far there are no grant applications open for us to apply on.

“Where this will end up on our 2014 Budget Priorities will be determined during our Council Budget meetings which are all open to the public.”

Stetski said the next two meetings are on January 15 and 28 from 4 p.m. To 8 p.m. and are held in the City Hall Council Chambers.”

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