Environment File

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Alberta Environment has issued a stop-work order to stop someone from bulldozing land inside Lois Hole Park.

Alberta Environment and Parks spokesperson Kyle Ferguson confirmed Thursday that his department was investigating a land disturbance to the shore of Big Lake within Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park and had issued a stop-work order under the Provincial Parks Act in relation to it.

Big Lake Environment Support Society member Dave Burkhart said that BLESS alerted Andre Corbould, the deputy environment and parks minister, to the disturbance earlier this month. (Corbould was supposed to tour the site Wednesday but had to cancel due to scheduling difficulties, Burkhart said.)

The affected area is on the south shore of Big Lake near 199 St. and 137 Ave., Burkhart said. BLESS members first noticed and reported the disturbance two years ago and spotted evidence of more activity this spring.

“I’d say there’s at least one to two kilometres of land that’s been bulldozed, vegetation taken out right down to the dirt,” he said, and right to the edge of the lake.

BLESS members suspect the clearing may have been done by a local landowner, Burkhart said.

“He’s definitely in the floodplain, and it’s public lands. He shouldn’t be mowing down vegetation.”

The whole idea of having a provincial park was to conserve the land for future generations, he continued.

“If you go about destroying habitat in parks … there’s really no hope for conservation.”

Bulldozing a portion of Lois Hole Park would appear to violate several sections of the Provincial Parks Act, including its provisions against destroying or altering land or plant life in a park.

Ferguson said he could not comment on the details of this situation, as it was an ongoing investigation, and would not say to whom his department had issued the stop-work order.

“Government takes issue with disturbances to public lands and within provincial parks very seriously,” he said.

The maximum penalty under the Parks Act is a $100,000 fine or 12 months in jail.

Burkhart said he was glad to hear the province was investigating this disturbance.

City residents will get a free look at some of this region’s greenest homes next weekend as part of an annual eco-solar tour, and one of them is right here in St. Albert.

The 17th annual Eco-Solar Home Tour is this June 4 and 5. The annual event gives Albertans a chance to visit some of the most energy-efficient homes in the capital region.

The tour is meant to showcase new technologies and teach people about energy efficiency, said tour co-founder Gordon Howell.

This year’s tour features 18 buildings that demonstrate energy-saving technologies such as super-insulation, solar panels, and ground-source and air-source heat pumps. Many are net-zero in terms of energy use.

Dave Pearson’s Evergreen Close home is part of the tour. It’s the first time the tour has had a home in St. Albert since 2012.

Pearson has an 8.5-kilowatt solar array on his roof – one of the biggest residential arrays in the city – and has replaced all his lights with LEDs.

“As of right now my (power) meter is showing a surplus or an overproduction of 960 kilowatt-hours,” Pearson said, adding that he suspects he’ll have about 3,500 kWh banked by wintertime.

He actually made about $6.70 on his last power bill, he added.

“The savings were quite significant.”

Pearson said the array cost about $20,000, and will likely pay for itself in 15 years. The array helps him promote his solar power business and enhances his property value.

“I’ve taken my savings and I’ve invested in my home instead of giving it to the utility company.”

Anyone who wants to reduce their energy bills and make their homes more comfortable should check out the tour, Howell said. He suspected that the province’s upcoming carbon tax would encourage more homeowners to invest in conservation.

“The more you become energy efficient, the less carbon you’ll emit, thus the less you will be needing to pay.”

The tour runs from noon to 4 p.m. both days. Visit Ecosolar.ca for details.

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