LETTER: Squeezing profit from the river

There was a natural plug in the Kootenay river at Grohman narrows that controlled the level of Kootenay Lake and river.

I attended BC Hydro’s presentation of their study of what they call the Grohman Narrows “improvement project” (see story on Page 5) with the pie in the sky view that they were considering re-arranging the bottom of the Kootenay because they were concerned about flooding on Kootenay Lake. It didn’t take long for many of us to realize that it was not the flooding that was driving BC Hydro, but the opportunity to squeeze a little more profit out of our poor beleaguered river.

The first thing they told us was that although the dams do give them some ability to prevent flooding, they can’t do much when the water comes too hard and fast, once the dams are full BC Hydro has no choice but to let the water go.

There was a natural plug in the Kootenay river at Grohman narrows. This plug controlled the level of Kootenay Lake and prevented the Kootenay river from turning into a completely unmanageable torrent in the spring freshet and kept the level of the lake up to a certain level the rest of the year.

This plug was partially destroyed by Baillie-Grohman in 1890 in an attempt to relieve the flooding on the Creston flats, and further wrecked by dredging in the 1930s. They didn’t manage to completely remove the restriction, so some of the natural protection for Kootenay Lake still remains. By the way Baillie-Grohman also tried to build a canal at Canal Flats which would have robbed the Kootenay system of much of its water by sending it into the Columbia. Thankfully, he didn’t quite succeed.

BC Hydro in their wisdom are now trying the use the fact that their was some flooding on Kootenay Lake in 2012 as a excuse to dredge the Kootenay river at Grohman in order to entirely control the lake level by human means by way of the Corra Linn Dam thereby increasing their profit margin. The offending restrictions are made of rock, not gravel so one must assume they will not just be scraping them away. I assume this will require blasting. Fish don’t like that.

If they succeed in removing the natural plug and the Corra Lynn fills to capacity in the freshet the river downstream could swell like never before putting everyone downstream in jeopardy. The beautiful trout producing waters of the narrows will be seriously compromised. The Glade ferry will be in big trouble as it is barely able, on some years, to continue operating as it is now.

The level of Kootenay Lake will then be maintained only by the Corra Linn Dam, and if something were to happen to that Dam, the Kootenay will no longer be the beautiful lake we know today and the lake level will then be controlled by the good graces of the decision makers at BC Hydro. If there is more money to be made by sucking the lake lower, man will have the ability to do so.

I don’t know about you but I would rather put my faith in Mother Nature than human nature, she never shoved any smart metres down my throat.

Wake up Kootenay environmentalists, the dinosaurs are about to make yet another assault on our beloved lake and river. Don’t let them get away with it

Rod Retzlaff


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