Water levels dropping but concern remains high

The waters of the Columbia River are now dropping but its level is still creating a concern for some communities.

The waters of the Columbia River are now dropping but its level is still creating a concern for communities in the lower reaches of its valley.

The City of Trail continues advising residents “to exercise extreme caution in and around the shoreline of the Columbia River” as it persists at one of its most torrid rates in over 50 years.

The river’s current level still means some properties in the Silver City’s downtown core could take on water in their basements through basement floor drains, or experience other seepage due to the high water table.

That concern is expected to remain as the river’s level stays high, said BC Hydro’s stakeholder engagement advisor Jennifer Walker-Larsen.

“Inflows across the Columbia/Kootenay system remain relatively high for this time of year and … (high) flows are expected to continue until late July or early August,” she said in her daily river report.

A smattering of rainfall in the northern areas of the Columbia River basin showed only marginal response in the level in the reservoirs upstream, she noted. Drier conditions are now expected to exist in the region for the remainder of the week.

An expected one-foot rise in the river on Sunday never materialized, Walker-Larsen noted, although the city’s lower reaches and the downtown core still have an advisory in place from the City of Trail.

“Property owners in the downtown should take action to remove any valuable materials or items stored in their basements,” stated a warning on the city’s website.

BC Hydro has maintained discharges at Hugh Keenleyside dam resulting in flows of the Columbia River of 209,000 cubic feet (ft3) per second, receding from its peak of 215,000 ft3 per second on the weekend.

Currently, the flow level at Birchbank is the highest recorded to date since the construction of the Columbia River Treaty storage dams. This flow, however, is still well below the pre-dam peak level in 1961, said Walker-Larsen.

“BC Hydro expects to maintain the flow as recorded at Birchbank at no higher than 215,000 ft3 per second unless runoff conditions change significantly,” she said.

The increase in flows to 225,000 ft3 per second on Sunday had been warned—which would have increased the elevation of the Columbia River by approximately one foot—but never happened.

Barring weather events, the water’s elevation of the Columbia River should not increase further this summer, Walker-Larsen explained.

But, depending on inflows around the Columbia-Kootenay system, high reservoir levels and Columbia River flows are expected to continue until late July or early August.

The Greater Trail region’s emergency operations centre is still activated to deal with the high level of the Columbia River.

The move last week was predicated after BC Hydro announced that, due to heavy rainfall events above the Mica Dam, increased amounts of water needed to be released into the Columbia River.

For further information, contact Alan Stanley, RDKB public information officer, at 250-368-1648.

Further updates on the river’s rise will be posted on the City of Trail website www.trail.ca.