The letter from BC Hydro spokeswoman Mary Anne Coules regarding Hydro’s plan to dredge Grohman Narrows was not very reassuring to me. In it she assures the public that “Relaxing the constriction will not empty Kootenay Lake or cause major impacts downstream because the Corra Linn Dam is still able to control lake levels.”
That’s the thing, though: currently the remainder of the natural restriction at Grohman Narrows does a very reliable job of controlling the lake level. Once you remove a good deal more of that restriction, the only thing controlling the level will be the Corra Linn Dam, and we will be totally relying on this man-made restriction. Not all of us are foolish enough to trust such engineering hubris. Man-made things are prone to failure.
Ms. Coules also assures us that the level of Kootenay Lake will only be reduced by about one foot in the early spring. But one foot of water over the area covered by Kootenay Lake is a hell of a lot of water; I certainly would not be confident that removal of that much water would not have a serious impact on the environment and the fish populations.
Before the system was harnessed for power generation, salmon spawned all the way to Bonnington Falls. That annual run supported a tremendously rich ecosystem. So, we lost that salmon run and most of the creatures that it supported. Even the forest lost a valuable supply of fish fertilizer.
Kootenay Lake was also extremely well endowed with fish, but the steady development of hydroelectricity robbed the lake of its nutrient supply, and as a result we lost much of that very fine fishery.
The Kootenay River was once a world renowned trout fishery, especially at the Slocan Pool. That too we lost.
When I moved here in the 1970s a fisherman or woman could regularly catch a daily limit of 15 kokanee in the West Arm, many in the two pound range. Now only short fishing seasons are available to catch a limit of five fish half that size, if you are lucky.
I can still go fishing in the lower West Arm two days a week for a five fish limit, but if Hydro is permitted to lower the lake level in the early spring, even if it is “only by one foot,” I certainly don’t feel confident that this small fishery can continue.
BC Hydro makes many millions of dollars on their hydroelectric generation facilities, but it all comes at a very depressing cost. They have done more than enough damage to this river system. They should stop assuming that it is their right to manipulate it at will, and the local politicians who are encouraging them to do so should be ashamed of themselves. Enough is already too much.
Rod Retzlaff, Glade