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.


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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
Kootenay-Columbia MP pans federal budget

Conservative Rob Morrison says budget doesn’t have a plan for long-term spending priorities

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
Man arrested in incident at Canada-U.S. border near Roosville

A man who crossed the border illegally was apprehended by U.S. officials

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

The golf course in Elkford would need to be re-zoned to allow for 10 camping sites. (Image courtesy of District of Elkford)
Elkford to consider allowing campsites at golf course

The district has expressed support for 10 campground spaces at the golf course

Most Read