Water commission members split over Cruickshank dam feasibility study

An engineer has said a dam might not prevent sedimentation issues but could be helpful in terms of water volume management.

Members of the regional district water committee were divided over the cost of conducting pre-feasibility work to determine if a dam on the Cruikshank River would be a viable solution for flood control, water storage and turbidity prevention. Initial cost estimates are $180,000 to $250,000.

An engineer has said a dam might not prevent sedimentation issues but could be helpful in terms of water volume management.

Courtenay director Erik Eriksson was encouraged by the cost-sharing potential with TimberWest, which owns the dam site and access to the site. But Area C director Edwin Grieve foresees a “daunting issue to try to take this on,” considering the number of players involved.

“We’re fighting a bit of a losing battle with a water plant (mandated by Island Health),” Grieve said. “Whether or not we want to lay out another $200k on a feasibility study, I would not be in favour.”

Likewise, Comox director Barbara Price could not support a $250,000 expense.

Courtenay director Larry Jangula suggests not throwing in the towel too quickly, but instead garnering input from the provincial government and the farming community.

“What director Eriksson is talking about is following up on exactly what they had asked us to do,” Jangula said. “I think this has some potential. We keep hearing it from people in our community about wanting us to be greener, wanting us to have more access to electrical cars and getting away from fossil fuels.”

Comox director Ken Grant questions how the district can garner anything positive considering the challenges faced with constructing a dam on the Cruikshank — which accounts for about half the inflows to the Comox Lake reservoir.

Innergex, a Canadian power producer, has been investigating construction on the Cruikshank for over 15 years. Their proposed dam — for hydro power generation — would be four to seven metres high with less than 100,000 cubic metres of storage. According to the company’s engineering manager, a dam for water regulation purposes would need to be higher and accommodate at least five million cubic metres of storage.

“Innergex had not been successful in negotiating a land purchase agreement with TimberWest,” said Zoe Norcross-Nu’u, engineering analyst with the CVRD.

TimberWest is concerned about possible interference between heli-logging and power transmission lines.

“Flooding the valley with a new reservoir would also reduce their harvestable land and impact their active road networks,” Norcross-Nu’u states in a report.

Other dam construction challenges include fish passage, water licensing, environmental impacts, First Nations considerations and impacts to BC Hydro operations.

“Even if it were shown that a dam would be helpful in addressing the issues of turbidity, drought and/or flooding, a water treatment plant would still need to be constructed,” Norcross-Nu’u told the committee.

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