High water puts Manitoba resort area in 'serious jeopardy'

East Blue Lake's rising water may force a resort to close. The province says the high level is caused by groundwater, not beavers.

Province says flooding caused by groundwater, disputes claim beaver dams are to blame

This is the scene today at East Blue Lake, with the beach and many of the trees gone, and the edge of the water nudging the property of Arch and Dawn Dowsett. (Courtesy Arch and Dawn Dowsett)

Groundwater, not beaver dams, is causing levels to rise at East Blue Lake, says Perry Stonehouse, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship's western regional director.

Stonehouse made the statement in response to concerns brought forward by a Manitoba man who's worried he'll be forced out of business because of the high water.

Arch Dowsett operates a store, restaurant and cabins at the resort area in Duck Mountain Provincial Park. He believes beaver dams are responsible for raising the water level more than three metres in the past five years.
East Blue Lake is located about 110 kilometres northwest of Dauphin, Man. (Google Maps)

The area is "overrun" with beavers, Dowsett said.

"(The province) was supposed to be monitoring them and removing dams to make sure the water would go in its natural course," he said. 

Provincial officials believe beaver dams are no longer an issue at East Blue Lake. When water levels began to rise, problem beaver dams were identified and dealt with, said Stonehouse. Since then "we've found no evidence of overland flow into the lake because of beaver dams."

It's little consolation to Dowsett, who said he has closed his restaurant and remains worried about the rest of his resort.

"The store's in very bad condition — it's musty [with a] mould smell in there and whatnot. We can't continue with that," said Dowsett, who has owned and operated the business with his wife, Dawn, for 13 years.

Beach, beauty of shoreline at risk: Dowsett

In a Facebook posting on the My East & West Blue Lakes page, the couple said the "sand beach, the shoreline, the beauty and serenity of the entire area are in serious jeopardy.… The province and Manitoba Conservation refuse to lower the lake level."
This photo from about 10 years ago shows the East Blue Lake beach as it used to be. (Courtesy Arch and Dawn Dowsett)

The province disagrees with that assessment. 

"We are attempting to try and mitigate the flooding," said Stonehouse. "We've moved washrooms that used to be located on the beach to higher ground ... we've expanded the beach, we've set up a pumping station to try and evacuate some of the water."

Options are limited, he said.

"The problem is primarily caused by groundwater, or water that's coming out of the ground," said Stonehouse, "It's a matter of waiting until the cycle reverses and we get a bit of drying to help us to lower the lake."

Dowsett worries that by the time the water stabilizes and starts to come down, there may not be anything left to save.

"[The province is] spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for upgrades in the campground, which is great," he and his wife wrote in their Facebook post, "but when the two main attractions in a remote area are a store and a beach that may no longer exist, who will utilize the campground?"

The water levels may have already started to return to normal, Stonehouse said.

"Between last fall and this fall, the water levels have come down about six inches," he said. "I'm not suggesting there's no problem with high water levels there … but we're seeing a bit of a stability."

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