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Some concern over Kootenay Lake levels as water crept to one of highest ever

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
October 17th, 2011

 

The level of Kootenay Lake is of concern to most who reside near the water’s edge, but of the 50 people that showed up to the Sept. 22 meeting in Nelson most of them had more of a professional interest. Although there is “some” concern in the coastal communities over the Kootenay Lake levels, Area D director Andy Shadrack said a majority of those present at the meeting “represented the Kootenay Lake Board of Control, BC Hydro, FortisBC and Columbia Power Corporation, all of whom are engaged in operating Kootenay Lake as a water storage reservoir for electricity production along the Kootenay River.” But in 2011, at 1,750.7 feet, it was the fourth highest freshet level since 1973. That came at a significant price to taxpayers in the region, said Shadrack, where the delivery cost of the Lardeau Valley mosquito abatement program, Service 469, nearly doubled. In 2009 the program cost $44,846 (contract $40,145/taxation $41,000) to deliver, while in 2011 the profuse amount of wetland created by the high lake level required $86,181.29 (contract $81,001/taxation $45,000) to be thrown at the problem. There wasn’t much room to dispute the operation, however, since lake levels are governed under the International Joint Commission Kootenay Lake Order of 1938 and the Columbia River Treaty. Hosted by the International Kootenay Lake Board of Control, the annual public meeting over the regulation of Kootenay Lake water levels — and the related operation of Corra Linn Dam — by FortisBC falls under the International Joint Commission’s 1938 Order of Approval. Kootenay Lake level interests FortisBC generates hydroelectric power at four installations in the Kootenay Lake watershed. The key to the various operations is the level of Kootenay Lake, controlled by a network of dams and control structures that adjust the inflow and the outflow of water. This control is required to support optimal power generation conditions, as well as water quality and quantity priorities, both for Kootenay Lake and downstream, in the Okanagan and Columbia River watersheds. On Oct. 13 the average daily discharge from the Brilliant hydro plant at Castlegar was 15,253 cfs (cubic feet per second), Kootenay Lake discharge was 14,600 cfs and Kootenay Lake inflows were 8,600 cfs. As of 7 am Oct. 14 the current Queen’s Bay elevation is 1742.74 feet and the Nelson elevation is 1742.66 ft. Kootenay Lake forecast for the period of Oct. 14-21 is down four to five inches. Top lake levels Kootenay Lake levels in descending order by highest level since 1973. It is interesting to note that 2011, 2002 and 2007 are in the top seven freshet peaks: 1974 1,739.5 and peak 1,754.24 1997 1,739.72 and peak 1,752.88 1996 1,739.05 and peak 1,751.88 2011 1,740.49 and peak 1.751.70/1.751.59 2006 1,739.34 and peak 1,751.57

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