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McIntyre Friends fear phosphates

McIntyre Creek has some new friends and they’re planning to build a park.“Our intentions are to steward the use and the safety of…

McIntyre Creek has some new friends and they’re planning to build a park.

“Our intentions are to steward the use and the safety of McIntyre Creek,” said Friends of McIntyre Creek organizer Dorothy Bradley.

“It’s slowly being destroyed and taken over and it’s our only wildlife corridor left and very important wetlands.”

McIntyre winds its way down to Porter Creek where Bradley and the majority of the Friends live.

 “There’s already species of birds that are leaving because of the deterioration,” said Bradley.

“Our fishers are leaving and if they can’t leave, they’re dying.

“And that’s really not good, because it is a salmon spawning area and every time somebody crosses the creek on their ATV they’re killing salmon fry.”

Aside from the harmful effects of motorized vehicle traffic, Bradley also blames the destruction on high phosphate levels in the water.

“We think that it’s caused by Icy Waters,” she said, naming the fish farm that operates next to the creek.

“They’ve been releasing more phosphates than they should.”

Phosphates are dangerous for the creek because it leads to an increased growth of algae.

This can cause something called an algal bloom, an overwhelming increase in algae that ends up decreasing the amount of oxygen in the water.

The result is a dead zone for fish and aquatic life.

The fish farm has a phosphate licence of 0.18 milligrams per litre, said Icy Waters president Jonathon Lucas.

And it has not breached that limit once since it was created in 2005, he said.

In the past, Icy Waters has offered to rake the algae out of heavily affected areas.

However, federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials told them not to.

“They said as far as fisheries are concerned, algae’s really good,” said Lucas.

“It provides shelter for invertebrates, which is the food of the fish.”

Also, the water in the creeks and lakes turns over frequently, so it’s always being replenished with fresh oxygenated water, he said.

And there is a maximum amount of phosphates, after which algae doesn’t grow any faster, he added.

Hidden Lake, for example, has already reached this maximum level, said Lucas.

“So you could dump a truckload in there and it still isn’t going to go any higher.”

Despite the differences of opinion over what is good for the creek, Icy Waters would like to work with the group to protect it.

“Icy Waters’ idea is, basically, that we’d like to help out,” said Lucas.

“There’s no point in fighting, everybody wants the same thing.”

Icy Waters is trying to meet with the Friends of McIntyre Creek group sometime this week to discuss how they might work together.

“The area needs to be properly used and properly protected,” said Bradley.

“Our hope is to make an agreement or get the government to agree to create a park in the area.

“It wouldn’t be a ‘don’t touch’ park. It would be a place where people can visit and enjoy the wilderness that’s left.”

Creating the park would be easy and relatively inexpensive, said Bradley.

The expensive part would be the restoration that’s required.

“We’ve got to find a way to get rid of the phosphates in the water and restore the creek beds and creek channels where they’ve been misused.”

Bradley is open to negotiations with the fish farm, but is also wary of Icy Waters’ latest proposal to build six new country residential lots along the Fish Lake road.

“The homes can add phosphates to the creek, which will add to the deterioration of the water quality,” she said.

“It depends on how they put in their septic systems, but that water will eventually leach in and of course there’s a lot of phosphates in the soaps.

“And there are phosphates on lawns, so that’s all going to drain into that creek as well and it takes years for that to be absorbed.”

With septic systems that are up to standard there shouldn’t be a problem with phosphates from the homes, said Lucas.

And Hidden Lake is located in the middle of Porter Creek subdivision, so if there are problems with phosphates from lawns the Friends of Porter Creek may want to look in their own backyards, he said.

The park is still in the planning stages and the government has not yet been contacted about the proposal, said Bradley.

About 15 people showed up for a meeting at the Whitehorse Public Library on Tuesday night and 70 additional people have expressed interest in the group.

“I don’t think the park would affect us and we’d be interested in working with them to preserve the creek,” said Lucas.

“We don’t want massive development around here anyway.

“I mean, I run dog races out here and hopefully we can keep using the trails.”