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FortisBC warns of recreating dangers near dams ahead of Labour Day weekend

FortisBC would like to warn the public of the dangers of swimming near the Lower Bonnington Dam known to many locals as ‘Paradise’. — Submitted photo

With summer winding down, and the weatherman cooperating with some hot temperatures, FortisBC is asking British Columbians, specifically residents in the Kootenay region to be extremely cautious when in and around its hydroelectric dams.

"Some rivers, streams and large reservoirs of water flow to and through FortisBC hydroelectric dams and along these rivers and reservoirs there are a variety of areas open to the public for swimming, fishing, boating and other recreational activities but in some areas there are warning signs to stay away and be extremely cautious to not enter water ways near dams," FortisBC said in a media release.

"One area under strict warning is near the Lower Bonnington Dam known to many locals as ‘Paradise’. Choosing not to respect warning signs is highly dangerous and can be deadly including the risk of drowning."

FortisBC would like to relay to the public three of the most common myths or misconceptions people have about dams, waterways and their safety.

Myth 1: In summer, the water is calm and levels are low and stable, which means I can go near a dam without a problem.

Truth: Water levels in a river or a reservoir can change quickly, at any time without warning – all year long. When water flows through the dam or over the dam’s spillway, it can rise or fall, creating dangerous undertows and turbulence.

Myth 2: I’ll know if water levels are about to change because there’ll be a siren warning me.

Truth: Many dams do not use an audible warning sound or siren to signal the rapid change in water levels or flows. Instead, people need to obey all fences, railings, markers, safety booms or buoys that indicate hazardous areas and that restrict public access.

Myth 3: Dams and the surrounding property are open to the public.

Truth: Dams and surrounding property are not open to the public. They are private property. In some cases, you may be allowed to visit or do a tour with permission, but otherwise, always obey the private property signs. They’re there to help ensure your safety.

FortisBC has operated and maintained hydroelectric power facilities in British Columbia for the past 100 years.

FortisBC owns and operate four hydroelectric dams on the Kootenay River: the Corra Linn, Upper Bonnington, Lower Bonnington and South Slocan.

FortisBC also operate five additional generating plants owned by others (the Waneta Dam and Waneta Expansion near Trail and Arrow Lakes Generating Station, Brilliant Dam and the Brilliant Expansion near Castlegar).