VICTORIA -- The Capital Regional District (CRD) parks committee is recommending oxygen devices be introduced in Elk and Beaver Lakes to improve water quality and prevent toxic algae blooms.

The Saanich lakes are regularly closed to swimmers in the winter months to prevent potential illness as a result of coming into contact with toxic blue-green algae blooms.

The CRD parks committee is now recommending a two-phase approach to deal with the problem of algae growth in the lakes.

“We as a region have become too accustomed to hearing that these lakes are closed and they don’t have to be closed, we can fix this,” said CRD board chair Colin Plant. “In response to community concerns, the CRD has developed a watershed management plan for Beaver and Elk Lakes.”

Plant says the CRD plans to manage blue-green algae growth by inserting more oxygen into the lakes which will make them healthier.

“I think it is a problem that we have to regularly post warnings to tell people not to go into our regional lakes,” said Plant. “We as a CRD are committed to having our regional parks and the lakes that are in our regional parks be as healthy as they can be.”

CRD staff say that improving the water quality at Elk and Beaver Lakes will reduce the frequency of toxic blue-green algae blooms, improve wildlife habitat and control the growth of invasive aquatic plants.

Along with the watershed management plan, the CRD has committed to paying 50 per cent of the costs associated with the installation of oxygen generating equipment to be submerged in Elk and Beaver Lakes.

“One of the options is the oxygen generator inserted into Elk Lake and Beaver Lake. We have seen that effectively done in Langford,” said Plant. “We have committed to fund 50 per cent of the project and we are asking the federal or provincial governments to come up with the other half to show that they also support healthy waterways in our region.”

Plant says when they receive funding from higher levels of government, the CRD will move to install the oxygen generating equipment fairly quickly.

“The Capital Regional District and the District of Saanich are concerned about the water quality in Elk Lake and Beaver Lake,” said Plant.

How the water runoff that flows into the two lakes will be managed moving forward will be discussed at the next CRD parks committee meeting in October.

Water management and the introduction of oxygen at both lakes will be discussed at the October CRD board meeting.