RDEK working with province to address South Country water crisis

Board passes motion to pursue action under provincial legislation, declare emergency if necessary

Elko Dam. BC Hydro photo.

Elko Dam. BC Hydro photo.

Regional district staff is working with the province to address a long-standing water crisis in the South Country, however, the elected board directors also endorsed a motion to declare a state of local emergency if deemed necessary to help speed up provincial government action.

The water crisis, raised by Area B Director Stan Doehle during a board meeting in August, outlined lower water levels in aquifers out in Baynes Lake and Elko. Doehle’s report found that water from the Elko River isn’t feeding seven sinkholes near the Elko Dam due to issues with the headpond, which is affecting water levels at nearby lakes and water sources, based on data collected from a retired geologist who lives in the South Country area.

Doehle’s report found that the headpond needs to operate at a maximum level of 917 meters in order to feed the sinkholes, however, BC Hydro, which owns the Elko Dam, is currently holding the headpond at 912 metres, slightly above the minimum requirement set out by the provincial Comptroller of Water Rights.

READ: Officials raise alarm over environmental ‘crisis’ in Baynes Lake area

RDEK staff has been working with the provincial government through a section in the Water Sustainability Act that would allow for a back channel diversion from the Elk River to the sinkholes for a term not exceeding 24 months.

The motion passed by the RDEK board during a monthly meeting on Friday included a provision to declare a state of local emergency if deemed necessary to help speed up government and permit approvals.

“I appreciate the support from the board on this motion,” said Doehle. “There are two communities without water and you can’t put any more importance on this issue.”

The water crisis is two-fold, as Doehle’s concerns are focused on lower water levels in area wells and lakes, in terms of human consumption, along with the adverse effects on surrounding ecosystem habitat and wildlife.

The dam has not been generating power since 2014, but BC Hydro continues to maintain the facility to transfer river water, according to a statement previously issued by the Crown Corporation. Flashboards on the east side of the headpond were removed three years ago and weren’t replaced due to safety issues, according to the same statement.

“[BC] Hydro has made it quite clear they have no interest in working on restoring the flashboards in the dam,” Doehle said. “They made it quite clear…I think the smart move is to go on the route we’re going in sculpting out the back channel because that’s a permanent fix.”

Additional chemical testing completed over the last few weeks shows a relationship between elevated levels of selenium in the Elk River and well tests in the Baynes Lake area, proving that the river is the water source, according to Doehle. BC Hyrdo continues to maintain there is no conclusive link between Baynes Lake water levels and Elko Dam operations.

Doehle added he is hoping to approach Teck for their technical expertise on selenium and water quality issues. Additionally, the RDEK is hoping to reach out to Canfor, which operates the Elko sawmill, regarding the water quality status of the company’s well.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

(File)
One death and 82 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

1,981 total cases, 609 are active and those individuals are on isolation

Bootleg Gap Golf Course has been sold to Simkins Golf Management Inc. for $3 million.
Bootleg Gap Golf Course sold to Simkins Golf Management for $3 million

After the decision was made to sell back in October 2019, Council… Continue reading

Robyn Ostlund wants to get people moving in December and also raise money for the Food Bank. Photo submitted
Fundraiser for Kimberley Food Bank keeps you moving

Last year, Robyn Ostlund of Kimberley organized a fundraiser to assist the… Continue reading

Stock photo courtesy Cliff MacArthur/provincialcourt.bc.ca.
Double-murder trial in case of Cranbrook couple killed adjourned until January

A trial has been adjourned until January for two men charged with… Continue reading

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
First long-term care resident dies from COVID-19 in Interior Health

Man in his 80s dies following virus outbreak at Mountainview Village

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Amanda Weber-Roy, conservation specialist for BC Parks in the Kootenays. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
VIDEO: Kootenay youth climate group works to protect Nelson’s water supply

Youth Climate Corps members spent five weeks thinning forest in West Arm Park

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Most Read