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Low Arrow Lakes levels reveal pre-dam debris

BC Hydro is creating an inventory of foundations and materials that have appeared on the Arrow Lakes due to low water levels.

Company spokeswoman Mary Anne Coules said they received many reports over the summer of structures being exposed, causing safety concerns for people who use the reservoir for recreation. BC Hydro has been cataloguing those reports.

“Right now we have crews on the reservoir inventorying what is out there,” she said. “We’re looking at hot spots identified through community reports as well as our own historical records. This inventory work will be completed this fall.”

Coules said lots of things have been popping up, including foundations from homes and businesses, rusty pipes, old vehicles, farm equipment, and parts of furniture all of which appears to date to the creation of the reservoir in the 1960s. While most structures were removed before the completion of the Keenleyside dam, some things were left behind and subsequently inundated by rising waters.

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Normally water levels are lowest during winter so those things are covered with snow, Coules said.

“But this year because we had such unusually low levels, all of this was exposed. The big concern is safety, but it certainly was upsetting for folks and long-time residents to see.”

Coules said once the assessment is complete, they will see what can be done about the material. She said in some cases they should be able to remove it while in others it may remain untouched.

She said their evaluation will take into account environmental considerations, archaeological and heritage values, accessibility and public safety concerns. Until then, she said, it’s hard to tell whether any of the material has historic value.

She added that BC Hydro is grateful for the reports they’ve received from the community to date and encourage anyone else aware of structures or materials that have been exposed to tell them.

The company’s assessment will be very detailed, she said. Crews have been out examining the shoreline and they will also use high-resolution aerial photography to identify debris that should be removed.

The construction of the Keenleyside dam and displacement of about 2,000 residents on the Arrow Lakes was a consequence of the Columbia River Treaty, which is now being renegotiated.

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