Today’s Poll

Record rainfall has made for record water levels in Kootenay Lake

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
July 3rd, 2012

The Nelson and Castlegar region saw 228 millimeters of precipitation in June  — three and a half times more rain than the region usually experiences, said Doug Lundquist, Environment Canada meteorologist.

But don’t let the rain get you down, bright skies are on the way — really.

The “monsoon season” of the BC Interior will soon be over. The local rainy season is typically between May 15 and July 7. The season is “transitioning very quickly,” said Lundquist.

“By the end of the week we’ll be into the mid-30s,” he said, with less extensive wide-spread rains. “June is typically wet and then when you get record precipitation it feels even wetter.”

While the rain may be over in a week, the severe thunderstorms may not be. The excessive moisture coupled with the predicted rise in temperatures will make for an increase in storm activity, said Lundquist.

As the rains are coming down, the water levels are going up in Kootenay Lake.

The lake has hit a 40 year record high of 1,753.7 feet (534.53 meters) at Queen’s Bay and 1,750.87 feet (533.67 meters) in Nelson as of Tuesday, July 3.

“While we understand that the high water level is a concern for flooding, the conditions that we find ourselves in today are as a result of natural conditions,” stated FortisBC director of network operations, Barry Smithson in a press release.

“The snowpack at Redfish Creek in 2012, just north of Nelson was the highest snowpack on record. The amount of precipitation that the region has experienced in June is forecast to be the most precipitation we have ever received in any individual month, including the winter months. These conditions are not isolated to the Kootenay Lake region, as flooding has been a problem all across the province.”

FortisBC operates four dams on the Kootenay River including Corra Linn, two at Bonnington and one at South Slocan.

Two other dams, including BC Hydro’s Duncan Dam and Libby Dam operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers also helps keep tabs on water levels in Kootenay Lake.

“It’s estimated that without Libby and Duncan dams in place today, that the current lake level would be approximately seven feet higher with the natural inflow conditions we have seen this year,” stated Smithson.

For more information about Kootenay Lake levels visit or call 1-866-436-7847 where you can sign up for the Kootenay Lake level email updates.

Flooding concerns can be addressed on the Provincial Emergency Program website at or to report an emergency call 1-800-663-3456.

The rain can be bad for business

The international tourism numbers are slightly up, despite the weather, but those people aren’t staying as long, said Val Yowek, visitor councillor for the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.

People who are coming from Europe have pre-booked their trips and are still coming but the number of domestic tourists from BC and Alberta are down due to the rain, said Yowek.

“(The international tourists) are cutting their trips short,” she said, mainly because there are only so many indoor activities to do in Nelson.

While some people are touring the local museum, others head out to surrounding communities like Castlegar.

The weather has definitely put a damper on the rafting trade. Kevin Pollard, owner of Silver Spray Rafting said the summer is off to a slow start thanks to the rain.

“Last July was very rainy and if we continue to have a lot of rain like that it is almost disastrous for the season,” said Pollard.

“So far it’s been very slow for the season … The phone definitely hasn’t been ringing much. It’s hard to encourage people to get out there in a boat and get wet.”

Pollard makes a lot of his tours down the Slocan River. He said it is safe despite the flooding. And he anticipates a great rafting summer, if the rain would stop.

“The Slocan River is actually safe at any level, really. Once the sun comes out it will be very exciting and fun,” said Pollard.

The rain and high lake levels were also responsible for the premature end to the Canada festivities in Nelson — postponing the fireworks show until the B.C. Day Weekend — flooded Lakeside Park and area basements.

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