Fourteen students asked Houston council to keep Irrigation Lake from being drained.
Grades five and six students at Houston Christian School have been working since early-September on an Irrigation Lake project – doing research, gathering information and putting together the presentation for Houston council.
At the Harvest Festival in mid-September, HCS students gathered over 100 signatures on a petition saying that Irrigation Lake should not be drained.
They researched about the lake using Marks of a Century (a book on Houston history), previously published Houston Today articles and an online Hiway 16 magazine.
Teacher John Siebenga said they also walked around the lake and talked to several locals, including Frank MacDonald, Russell Tiljoe, Ted Beck and Marni Macleod, about the history of the lake and its current use.
Siebenga said the project had the enthusiasm of the group from day one.
“We loved it,” said grade five student Nicole Groot.
“It was pretty cool,” chimed several other students.
The project came together with a 16-foot poster board and a presentation to council last Wednesday summarizing information about the past, present and future of Irrigation Lake.
Students said First Nations stories show that the Irrigation Lake dam was made by beavers prior to the 1900s.
Other history they found included details about First Nations fishing, use of the lake water for irrigating fields, District-run swimming lessons in the lake, and the 2007 logging of beetle-killed timber around the lake.
Students talked about the surrounding hiking trails and the value of the lake for things such as fishing, swimming, heating Bible Camps, and more.
The camps, hiking and fishing draw tourists and others to Houston, and there are wildlife which live in and around the lake, students said.
Talking about the future, students said they were concerned because of a government threat that the Irrigation Lake dam would be removed if no one upgraded it and took on the water licence.
An engineer study is being done and stakeholders have not decided who will take on the water licence.
Students said they were concerned about how dam removal would affect the local community and the habitat of the lake.
“We feel the District should step up and take the water licence to help the community save the Irrigation Lake dam from the bulldozer,” one student said.
Mayor Bill Holmberg and Councillor Shane Brienen commended the students for their study and presentation.
“You’ve done a great job,” Mayor Holmberg said.
Explaining to students their debate about the water licence, Brienen said the pool is a big part of the issue.
“We are paying a lot of money to run the swimming pool, and it’s a sad thing but we can’t afford to pay for everything,” Brienen said.
“One of the biggest issues we have in running the District of Houston is money,” said Mayor Holmberg.
“One of the arguments that we hear all the time is that we have a perfectly good pool here now, why are you guys still spending money on the lake?
“But we do see the value of the lake, so it’s a project in process.
“We will keep you informed about what’s going on,” he said.