City seeking management plan for rivers

City Trail is calling upon the province and BC Hydro to create a water management system to prevent future flooding.

The city is calling on the province and BC Hydro to create a water use management plan for both rivers flowing into the Silver City to avoid 2012’s flooding fiasco that caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to city and private property.

Councillor Gord DeRosa said after a meeting Monday with BC Hydro that they will be having a “very serious” discussion with BC Hydro at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria in late September.

The city will be meeting with the minister responsible for BC Hydro, Rich Coleman, to review the situation, as well as hearing from BC Hydro officials themselves on what they have to say on the matter.

DeRosa was concerned the Crown corporation was negligent in considering the effect of the two rivers—the Columbia and the Kootenay—meeting and coming into Trail by not having an over arching water use management plan for territory south of its confluence.

“The dams (upstream) were built to avert flooding. Well, we flooded this year,” said DeRosa. “Being at the south end of the (Columbia) basin, a lot of the decisions are made north of us but they affected us dramatically this year.

“We need to know down here that the right decisions are being made above us.”

He said although there is a water use management plan for both the Kootenay and the Columbia rivers—to mitigate water level effects in their bordering communities—there is no plan in effect for when both rivers meet and come through Trail.

“We can’t hold the Americans accountable for any water licencing they have there, but it was clearly demonstrated this year that we need a coordinated, cooperative management plan of both rivers,” he said.

A water use management plan for a river is a legal document that determines how much water will be released and at what time of the year that will happen.

There are many things to consider when a water use plan is created, including impacts on recreation, fish, ecology, archeological sites, power generation, flood control and every community touched by a region’s reservoir.

So when a hydrological graph is agreed to and implemented for a river—dictating how much water will be released and at what time of the year—any negative effects of the release of water on any community is the responsibility of BC Hydro, said DeRosa.

“But in Trail’s case we can’t hold them to that because of the influence of the Kootenay River,” he said.

BC Hydro was contending with a heavy, water-laden basin this year and DeRosa speculated the Crown corporation did a stalwart job of sharing the pain of flood water throughout the basin.

“But that being said, we need to know that the army corps of engineers that operate the Libby (Dam) are playing ball with the rest of the basin too,” he noted.

“We need to know how the operations fared throughout, going back to March when they draft the reservoirs to make room for the freshet.”

DeRosa and council will be asking BC Hydro if they drafted as deep as they normally do, and did they gamble and hold a little more back for additional power generation.

“I think this will demonstrate the need for a cooperative and collective management plan on both rivers. This event this year will demonstrate that clearly,” he said.

It is estimated costs for assessing and repairing the damage caused by the highest river level in over 50 years could be in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said DeRosa, the councillor in charge of the public works’ portfolio.

He pointed to the condition of the over taxed storm sewer lines that feed into the regional system as one of the major concerns, and likely one of the major costs of what infrastructure was damaged.

The Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) has declared the intense rainfall and high river level that recently occurred within the Greater Trail area as eligible events for disaster financial assistance (DFA).

Financial assistance is available to qualifying homeowners, residential tenants, small businesses, farm owners and charitable or volunteer organizations.

People can get detailed information in the DFA Guidelines, available on the PEP website at www.pep.bc.ca, by email at PEP.Funding@gov.bc.ca, or by phoning toll free within B.C. at 1-888-257-4777.