I was very fortunate, from 1965 to the 1980s, to be part of the “era” of dam building in BC. While it was a great experience seeing huge changes to the landscape, valley bottoms, the flow of the natural river systems and lakes that were formed by the dams. I did not agree with some of the dam locations that changed the rivers and valley bottoms forever.
The adverse effect of dredging and widening Grohman Narrows will change the West Arm of Kootenay Lake forever. It will do more harm than good. Here is why: if you “pull the plug” out of the bottom end of the lake, of course, the lake will be lower in high water, but also the current will be a lot faster. A bigger problem is how to control the low water from running a lot faster and a lot lower than it is now in the spring. This would be devastating and costly for the West Arm.
I feel for the people who built too low and too close to the shore, but the alternative is worse. Some authorities feel there was no need for the flooding of 2012, that it was mainly caused by the US Army Corps of engineers at the Libby Dam, experimenting, in cahoots with BC Hydro, who already has publicly stated they would like to expand power generation at the dams below Grohman. So they are not planning to simply remove the small amount of material from the Grohman Creek outlet, and I would presume there is solid bedrock beneath. This will make Grohman Narrows deeper and wider and will make the West Arm faster and lower in low water. Corra Linn Dam and Kootenay Canal are too far downstream, with too many height limits to control low-level water in the spring and that’s not good.
The cost of dredging and widening would be huge, not only for the consequences of a low, fast West Arm current, but the silt from dredging will end up in front of the Corra Linn Dam, just like what is creating a big, expensive problem for the Hoover Dam presently. The Departments of Fisheries and Environment would have a lot to say about this, but I am not going there.
BC Hydro started to get things right by using the existing dams, such as Brilliant, Waneta, Corra Linn, and Keenleyside, adding new generation systems along side the dams and not disturbing the rivers and valley bottoms any further.
We have a surplus of hydropower in BC, so let’s not spend billions on more new hydro projects and start putting money into roads, schools, and health care for the people of BC.
We have lost most of our industry on the West Arm and all we have left is tourism, recreation and a beautiful lake, so let’s keep it that way, for once it’s changed, it’s changed forever.
Cpt. Vern Hellekson