A recent rash of vandalism and irresponsible behaviour near the Comox dam has BC Hydro and the Comox Valley Regional District concerned.
These activities include shooting and knocking down signs, and placing fuel on the ground and igniting it. This took place in early March beside the Comox dam and the source of the Comox Valley’s drinking water supply. As well, a vehicle caught on fire after inadvertently parking on top of a slow burning campfire that was placed on the road the night before.
“Vandalism unfortunately occurs from time to time but this may be the worst I’ve seen at our Comox Dam facilities, including an accidental vehicle fire, in my 15 years of involvement in terms of near-misses,” says BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson. “Near our yellow gate that provides entry into the picnic area a vehicle accidentally parked over an old but still hot campfire on the access road and it caught on fire, with resulting flames reaching the fir trees above. Two trees will need to be removed as the fire damage was substantial. We’ve had signs pulled down by a vehicle, signs shot out with a shotgun, and we’ve had reports of people using some form of fuel placed on the ground near the river or thrown in the air to be ignited. These incidents are a risk for public safety. For BC Hydro and emergency responders it takes up resources, time, money and can also impact the environment. More importantly it’s a risk to our hydroelectric operations should a forest fire be caused from these activities, and it’s close to the direct withdrawal of water for the Comox Valley’s domestic water consumption. It is a lack of respect of property and social values.”
BC Hydro says it scooped up and correctly disposed of the remnants of melted plastic, steel, tires, fluids and contaminated soils.
BC Hydro also says that on March 11, a person was seen walking across the floating log boom in the reservoir immediately upstream of the dam that prevents debris from entering the spillway gates. The individual was asked to get off the boom given the risk of falling into the cold water and potentially having the current draw them towards the gates.
“For public safety, particularly immediately upstream of our dams and intakes, people need to stay away from the water flows and obey signage,” adds Watson. “Although that may have been missed given the recent sign vandalism.”
BC Hydro is replacing the warning signs that were damaged or destroyed.
“The CVRD is very disappointed in hearing about these activities,” says Dave Leitch, CVRD’s senior manager of water and wastewater. “We have our community watershed advisory group, we’ve gone through challenging times with the turbidity issues in the lake, and the broader community awareness of the importance of protecting our watershed is probably never been higher. And yet we have these types of incidents take place. It just doesn’t make sense. Materials can leach into the river, and the thought of that forest buffer area around the river catching on fire is worrying.”
Both BC Hydro and the CVRD wanted to bring these issues to the community’s attention in the hopes it will prevent future vandalism and create broader awareness for good watershed stewardship.