So there I am, content after a nice dinner of home-made sushi and just chilling and flipping through my phone… when I saw something that snapped me right to attention:
Dam failure a quake risk for Campbell River
Residents urged to flee area around river if ground shakes strongly
Officials in Campbell River are urging residents to prepare for massive flooding when the ‘Big One’ hits.
While many areas on the coast risk inundation from the sea, the danger in Campbell River will come from inland, where there are two large dams to the west of the city.
“It is predicted by BC Hydro that our old dams will not survive a catastrophic earthquake,” Shaun Koopman, the protective services coordinator for Strathcona Regional District, said in an interview with On the Island’s Gregor Craigie.
If both the earth-filled Strathcona Dam and John Hart Dam breach in a quake, Koopman said, “we would expect about four to six metres of water to flood large areas along the Campbell River, going into our downtown core within half an hour to 40 minutes.”
The fast-moving water would devastate Campbell River’s downtown area.
Seismic improvements to start in 2020
The John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project still needs final design and regulatory approval. Watson said that work is expected to begin around 2020.
He said Strathcona Dam Low Level Outlet Project is expected to begin around the same time.
The project would construct an underground tunnel that would allow the release of water downstream to relieve pressure from the Strathcona Dam.
Campbell River is not the only Vancouver Island where BC Hydro identified an older earth-filled dam as a risk for failure and flooding in an earthquake.
Earlier this year Hydro finalized the purchase of all but one of the 11 homes in the tiny Vancouver Island community of Jordan River. Those homes were in the path of flooding from a potential dam break, and are expected to be removed.
For the residents downstream of the John Hart and Strathcona dams, BC Hydro estimates it will be 20 years before both dams are fully upgraded to withstand a one-in-10,000-year earthquake.
“We have a good plan,” Watson said. “Until then, there is this interim risk.”
Well shades of long overdue critical repairs on the WAC Bennett Dam, yet another dam Hydro had to undergo review by the BC Utilities Commission for, not unlike the process required for these critical seismic upgrades.
And as I wrote in November 2015… the hypocrisy of it all is just as stunning now as it was when I heard about condition of the WAC Bennett dam back then: https://lailayuile.com/2015/11/30/a-river-runs-through-it-the-hypocrisy-that-is/
In the case of the Bennett Dam repairs, they were identified in 1998… and only went for review in 2015 and the undercutting on the dam is significant.
BC Hydro has an issue with aging infrastructure that in some cases need critical and extensive works. The Jordan River buyout I wrote of yesterday was done because the risk of loss of life downstream was significant if anything happened.
In a post done earlier this year I posted a Quarterly Dam Safety report for the public to read: https://lailayuile.com/2016/03/10/bc-hydro-responses-to-bc-utilities-commission-raises-new-questions-over-wac-bennett-dam-repairs/
This is a newer version here, which discusses conditions and risks of numerous dams around the province: https://www.bchydro.com/content/dam/BCHydro/customer-portal/documents/corporate/accountability-reports/financial-reports/annual-reports/dam-safety-annual-report-2015-2016.pdf
Campbell River is a great community and an amazing mecca for tourism, fishing and everything outdoors. The scenery is incredible and the people are too. I think they deserve far better than what BC Hydro is giving here. Considering how many issues are identified with dams around the province, we might want to take care of these before spending billions on a new one we don’t need….
My questions to Hydro CEO, Premier Clark and Bill Bennett are these:
1) Why do critical dam repairs have to undergo a BC Utilities Commission review…while the province refuses to allow the BC Utilities Commission to review the Site C project?
2) Why is pushing Site C past the point of no return a bigger priority for BC Hydro over critical upgrades on the aging dam infrastructure across the province…which in the case of Campbell River dams mentioned in the CBC story I opened with, not estimated to even begin until 2020?