Vanderhoof flood risk evokes memories

It’s a love/hate relationship

“I have a love hate relationship with the dam.”

That’s the way long time resident, Olive Silver, describes her feelings about the Kenney Dam; a structure that has, without a doubt, fundamentally altered Vanderhoof and which, today, is again the subject of discussion around the town as Vanderhoof braces itself for what could be another flood.

The dam is owned and operated by Rio Tinto (known as Alcan prior to 2007) but, in fairness, it came about as a result of a concerted effort by the provincial government to attract the aluminum industry to the province. A poll at the time (1949) showed an overwhelming support for the plans for the necessary hydro electric development on the Nechako River.

In fact, the company did not want to own and operate the dam, preferring to simply buy the poser from a publicly owned dam and hydroelectric development. The province declined and instead entered into the Kemano Agreement, which gave Alcan the rights to divert water from above the dam through a tunnel to a hydro-electric facility at Kemano.

Behind the dam, the Nechako Reservoir filled from 1952 to 1957, flooding a series of lakes in the drainage basin of the upper Nechako River and filling an area of 92,000 hectares.

The dam complex, which sits at the east end of the reservoir, also includes the Murray Dam and the Skins Lake spillway, which regulates water levels both in the reservoir and downstream.

That spillway was, constructed across the Cheslatte River to help cool water temperatures in the upper Nechako River in order to, amongst other issues, to minimize the dam’s impact on salmon and other fish in the Nechako.

The construction of the dam and spillway forced the Cheslatta First Nation people from their land. When the spillway was first opened a massive surge of water washed away the settlement and destroyed an ancestral graveyard at the west end of Skins Lake.

For years thereafter, bones, crosses and other debris could be found floating on the surface of the lake.

“I remember before the dam,” said Silver.

“The river was natural back then but the town (Vanderhoof) would flood pretty much every year. With the dam, we’ve had fewer floods but that’s meant that people have built in flood prone areas that they never would have considered (before the dam).”

Silver recalled that her father, the former editor of the Vanderhoof Chronicle, found out the date for the dam to become operational and travelled to the dam site to watch.

“The river just disappeared that day. There were dead fish all over in the mud, and my father was so upset he went back to the paper and he wrote ‘An Obituary for the Nechako River’ and ran it on the front page of the paper,” said Silver.

“I still hate the way the dam is used to make the river go up and down. I wish it were controlled a little better. What they do now just isn’t right.”

Silver’s house, in which she’s lived since 1961 and where she raised her family, sits above the Nechako River and she has an abiding love for the waterway and the town of Vanderhoof.

“The town would never have become what it is today without the dam, but it needs to be managed more responsibly with some concern for the people affected by floods,” she said.

“Like I say…it’s a love hate relationship.”

 

Just Posted

Vanderhoof commemorates Orange Shirt Day with beading workshop

Participants can learn a traditional Métis craft at CNC Sept. 26

College of New Caledonia offers new automotive glass technician program

The program is offered mainly online, allowing more students to take part from across the north

Local business wins snow removal award

K. Leigh Precision Earthworks picked up Rookie of the Year from Western Canadian company

Todd Doherty was recognized today for his life-saving actions during a flight home

Todd Doherty, Member of Parliament for Cariboo-Prince George, was recognized today for… Continue reading

Decision on Burns Lake’s workforce camp “pending very soon”: Coastal GasLink

Meetings to discuss new camp location postponed due to wildfire situation

Conservation officer frees B.C. deer from flotation gear mishap

BC Conservation Officer Service is reminding residents to keep backyards clear of entanglements

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Tragic accident claims life of B.C. toddler

Fundraising effort has been created to help mom and family

B.C. nanny charged with sex abuse of 3 children

Saanich Police seek potential victims of Johnathon Lee Robichaud from Central Saanich

‘I’m no quitter’ on climate change issues, McKenna says at G7 ministers meeting

David Suzuki says if McKenna believes what she’s saying, she too should quit

VIDEO: Inside an eerily empty mall in Canada

Only nine of 517 retail spaces are open for business as the grand opening postponed to next year

B.C. wildfires burned large areas affected by mountain pine beetles: Experts

The mountain pine beetle epidemic affected more than 180,000 square kilometres in B.C.

Tens of thousands without power following tornado in Ottawa region

Hydro Ottawa says more than 170,000 customers were without power early this morning

Most Read