TransAlta lowered the water levels in Ghost Lake at the request of the province and some who have businesses on shore say their bottom lines are being affected.

The power company operates Ghost Dam and lowered the level of the lake by about six metres to create a buffer zone upstream of the city to protect it in the event of a flood.

“Ghost Reservoir gives us the best option to store water upstream of Calgary on the Bow River. Our deal with TransAlta provides about 65 million cubic metres of storage,” said Jason Penner from Alberta Environment. “Ghost Reservoir is in place right now and it offers us storage right now and doesn’t involve construction of something new.”    

The lower level has moved the shoreline down by about 30 metres in some places and docks and launches are now high and dry.

Boats can't get out on the water and some that were launched before the levels were lowered are now stuck on the lake.

Local businesses like the marina and campground, which rely on the lake for their livelihood, say they are being affected by the initiative.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve built a business and it’s devastating to me. We can’t open our marina, we can’t open our launches, there’s nobody in our campground, it’s a business killer for me," said Mike Weinert, Owner of Ghost Lake Recreations and Manager of the Ghost Lake Marina and Campground.

The lower levels are part of a pilot project but Weinert worries it will become the standard.

 “I’m hoping they’ll reassess the flood mitigation strategy, you know, this impacts so many people, not just me as a business but also people that are using the facility here so it’s basically shut the facility down to any boat use at all so I hope they’ll rethink that so that we can actually open the facility back up,” he said. “I’m worried about this being the norm for years to come or that possibly there’s a new lower low from here and Ghost Lake as a recreational lake just disappears completely.”

Weinert says the campground is packed and there are upwards of 500 boats on the lake on most weekends in the summer so the impact will be felt by many.

“There’s a hundred boats moored that obviously can’t access the lake right now so yea it impacts thousands of users,” he said.

The lake is scheduled to start refilling in early July but that date could be altered depending on how much precipitation and runoff there is in the Bow River over the next few weeks.

“The standard statement is July 7th is the end of this program and then they’ll start lifting the water levels from there. My concern is if we wait until July 7th and the flow rate is lower than normal, it could take two to three weeks to fill the lake back up which means we’re talking August before we’ll have enough water in this lake to use,” said Weinert.

As part of the deal the province is compensating TransAlta for its lost revenue, but no compensation has been offered to the other businesses on the lake that are also losing money because of the lowered water levels

(With files from Kevin Green)