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Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy (CLASS)

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For all who live and play in the Fraser Valley, Cultus Lake is a jewel, drawing over three million visits each year. But the lake is also suffering the ill effects of its popularity, and concerned residents are looking for a strategy to keep the lake healthy.

In 2007 some of those people came together to build a multi-interest Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy (CLASS). They wanted to look further into the state of fish and wildlife, water temperature, water quality, nutrient loading and aquatic invasive species ― particularly Eurasian watermilfoil and other milfoil species.

The CLASS Partnership

CLASS is a network of over 60 organizations and individuals, all interested in the future of Cultus Lake. FBC’s Fraser Valley Regional Manager chairs CLASS meetings and supports the participants as they come together to identify key issues, gather information, and support research on the lake. Participants include the Cultus Lake Community Association, BC Parks, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Cultus Lake Park Board, Soowahlie First Nation, Chihlkwayuhk Tribal Society, Sto:lo Tribal Council, Fraser Valley Regional District, Fraser River Salmon Table Society, Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition, Sport Fishing Advisory Board, and participants from business, industry, education and other sectors.

Cultus: A Lake Under Pressure

cultus_waterfront.jpgThe science shows that Cultus Lake is moving towards eutrophication. The lake suffers from nutrient loading, which has led to an increase in algae and reduction of oxygen in some conditions. The nutrient problem comes from different human sources, including septic systems that serve residents and visitors, lawn/golf course fertilization and agricultural activity. There are serious consequences for lake water quality and ecosystem health.

People rely on having a healthy lake at Cultus for sport and recreation.

The lake is also key to survival of unique fish stocks:

  • the COSEWIC-listed Cultus Lake Sockeye, a genetically distinct type of Sockeye salmon, which is in decline, and
  • the Cultus Pygmy Scupin, a small fish found nowhere else in the world and listed as a species at risk.

“The Scoop on Poop”: Nutrient Management

CLASS is a partner in a program to monitor nutrients and identify sources, with DFO’s Science Branch. A two-year study looked at the stresses pollution places on habitat quality for salmon and other fish species, including the role of atmospheric deposits. The underlying goal is to help authorities on nutrient abatement and to protect endangered Sockeye rearing habitat.

Results of the study will be published in mid-2014.

Other Work

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Soowahlie Chief Otis Jasper (left), FBC’s Marion Robinson and Chilliwack MP Mark Strahl join
with Cultus Lake Park officials to unveil a statue honouring Cultus Lake Sockeye.

The work of CLASS began in 2007. Since then the partnership has taken many steps, including:

  • conducted a scientific literature review on issues facing the lake
  • conducted a survey of Cultus Lake visitors to ascertain their understanding of lake issues, what they value about the lake and any beneficial actions they are taking: see Cultus Lake User Survey report.
  • helped organize annual longhouse events for stewards and community members to discuss issues of concern and share plans for Cultus. These have been held at the Yakweakwioose longhouse, hosted by Soowahlie First Nation, Sto:lo elders and others. See also: Community Dialogues.
  • collected oral histories from long-time residents of the lake to identify baseline features that have changed over the decades, such as the loss of freshwater clams. (This project is housed at the Chilliwack Museum archives.)
  • promoted Caring for Cultus Lake, a practical guide for lakeside residents, available on the Cultus Lake Park website.
  • established a sewerage committee, with support from VanCity, to explore and document some of the nutrient reduction options
  • participated in the annual Greg Clark Memorial Family Fishing Derby (for pikeminnow) at Cultus, hosted by the Fraser Valley Salmon Society
  • co-hosted a workshop in 2013 on Cultus Lake water quality and watermilfoil, an invasive aquatic plant that is a problem on Cultus and many other lakes in BC.

Contact Us

CLASS meets on the last Wednesday of each month (except August and December) and welcomes interested members of the community. For more information, contact , Manager, Special Projects.

In light of waning public interest and funding for environmental monitoring and research on Cultus Lake, the initiatives proposed by CLASS and the FBC are crucial to ensure that the threats to species at risk remain on the radar and are ultimately addressed. I have great faith that the ongoing science and community stewardship partnerships we foster within the Cultus watershed will ultimately result in mitigation of the human activities that impact the system, define future sustainable use of the Cultus Lake, and protect species at risk.

Daniel T. Selbie, Ph.D., Head, Lakes Research Program - Salmon and Freshwater Ecosystems, Science Branch - Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently recognized the Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy (CLASS) and the Fraser Basin Council for their work, and for building community around the publication Caring For Cultus Lake.

Our Vision

Social well-being supported by a vibrant economy and sustained by a healthy environment.

About the Fraser Basin Council

The Fraser Basin Council (FBC) is a charitable non-profit organization that brings people together to advance sustainability in the Fraser River Basin and throughout BC. Established in 1997, FBC is a collaboration of four orders of government (federal, provincial, local and First Nations) along with those from the private sector and civil society. We work with people in multiple sectors, helping them find collaborative solutions to today’s issues through a commitment to the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Our focus is on healthy water and watersheds, action on climate change and air quality and strong, resilient communities and regions.

FBC Project and
Partner Sites

E3 Fleet/Green Fleets BC:
www.e3fleet.com

Plug in BC:
www.pluginbc.ca

BuySmart Network:
www.buysmartbc.com

BC Rural Network:
www.bcruralnetwork.ca

Rethinking our Water Ways:
www.rethinkingwater.ca

ReTooling for Climate Change:
www.retooling.ca

Climate Action Toolkit:
www.toolkit.bc.ca

Contact Us

FBC has offices in Vancouver, Kamloops, Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George. We also have staff located in Abbotsford and Vernon.

To reach us, see FBC Offices and FBC Staff.

Our main office is:

Fraser Basin Council
1st Floor, 470 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1V5

T: 604 488-5350
F: 604 488-5351
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