LETTER: Grohman Narrows project not worth the risk

Reader Rod Retzlaff says the biggest problem is that it relies on the integrity of a man-made dam, and dams sometimes fail.

I attended the open house put on by BC Hydro in Nelson on Oct. 29. At that forum I found one of the Hydro representatives charged with convincing the public that rearranging the bottom of the Kootenay River at Grohman Narrows was an “improvement,” that is, a reasonable and safe thing to do.

According to them, removing the remainder of the natural restriction which exists at Grohman would give them more control over the flow from Kootenay Lake and let them drop the level of the lake during late winter/early spring, thereby allowing for better flood control, and as a bonus would provide them with the opportunity to generate more electricity. They then plan to use the Corra Linn Dam to control the level of Kootenay Lake, turning it into the Kootenay Reservoir.

The biggest problem with this plan is that it is entirely reliant on the integrity of that man-made dam. Currently if something happened to the Corra Linn Dam which caused it to fail, it would be a very bad thing, but if anything happened to the Corra Linn Dam after the proposed dredging of Grohman, it would be an absolute catastrophe for Kootenay Lake.

Now we haven’t faced a dam failure in this area so most people don’t consider it as a possibility, but dams do fail. As a matter of fact there was a dam last spring on the American side that had to have its reservoir drained in order to allow work to be done to prevent it from failing. It was on the news … apparently they tell their people about problems like this. Not so in Canada.

According to my sources they recently had to drill holes right through the Brilliant Dam and add anchors to try to stop it from moving downstream. But in Canada we don’t get told these things; the only way we will learn of a dam failing is when it becomes entirely obvious. I do not know if the new anchors are doing the job.

BC Hydro’s representative assured me that their engineers were confident the Corra Linn Dam was secure. The truth is one well placed bomb would take that dam out easily, so if we ever got in a military conflict over some important commodity like, say water, the Corra Linn dam would be no barrier. The current natural restriction at Grohman Narrows would not be so easily taken out.

Another person also asked whether BC Hydro planned to lower the level of Kootenay Lake during the summer months, and was assured that no such thing was planned. But if they have the ability, and there is money to be made, I for one would not trust BC Hydro not to change its mind.

The representative we were talking to then told us that dredging at Grohman Narrows was not Hydro’s idea, it was requested by local municipal councils and regional districts. They asked Hydro to do this.

So, I beg of you, get ahold of your local politicians and tell them to stop this before it is too late. This dredging idea makes about as much sense as nuclear power generation. The fallout from its failure would be far too dire for me.

Rod Retzlaff

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