Stabilize the water level in the Arrow Lakes to 1430 feet
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For the past two years (2015 & 2016), the water level on the Arrow Lakes near Nakusp, during the spring/summer months, has been allowed to fall to 1400 feet which is close to the minimum acceptable level for the reservoir. Typically in the past years the lake level has been drawn down over the winter months and then built up in the spring/summer by water runoff from the mountain snow pack and controlling water discharge through the Keenleyside Dam at Castlegar and water inflow from the Revelstoke Dam (by BC Hydro).
The existing 1964 Columbia River Treaty with the USA requires Canada to send a certain amount of water for flood control and power generation for the 11 Columbia River hydro electric dams in the US below the Arrow Lakes. BC Hydro controls the water levels behind the Mica Dam, Revelstoke Dam and Keenleyside Dam as part of their power generation strategies. When runoff flows are low, the priority is to keep waters levels at Mica and Revelstoke high during the summer. This leaves the Arrow Lakes with low water levels particularly between May and October.
BC Hydro and the BC government have indicated that the Columbia River treaty is under negotiation as it expires in 2024, and they are unable to change the amount of water sent to the US. However, the lake levels above the Arrow Lakes are under Canada’s control. Lake Revelstoke and Kinbasket Lake levels are kept to maximum levels with their levels rising over the summer as the levels in the Arrow Lakes fall to meet the US water supply requirement. BC Hydro will not release water into the Arrow Lakes, as they want to maximize water storage behind the two upstream dams for power generation in the winter. Thus the Arrow Lakes becomes a “sacrificial” lake in terms of summer water levels.
The commerce and the economy of the Arrow Lake Valley relies mainly on logging and tourism. Both of these activities are negatively impacted by the low water levels, particularly in the summer. The Arrow Lakes has a significantly higher population than currently reside on Lake Revelstoke or Kinbasket Lake combined.
This causes the following problems:
A HARDSHIP FOR RESIDENTS OF THE VALLEY:
The Arrow Lake is the sacrifice lake in the Columbia River system even though it is the most populated of the three Canadian lakes. Its levels are allowed to rise and fall more than any other lake in the entire system. Keeping high water levels in Kinbasket and Revelstoke Lakes in the summer, while releasing water to the USA over the summer months creates a hardship for Arrow Lake Valley residents and tourists. Meanwhile the lakes in the USA below the Arrow Lakes are kept fairly full in the summer.
The two (mostly unpopulated) Canadian lakes above the Arrow Lake are kept full in the summer. Their levels rise as the Arrow Lake levels go down as water is released to the US at the Keenleyside Dam at Castlegar. The Arrow Lakes Valley residents should have the right to their fair share of water in their lake so that they are able to fully enjoy all of its benefits including:
• maintaining the part of the economy dependent on tourism, for example beaches and docks that can be used from May to October.
• maintain and sustaining the fish population, and spawning areas until September and October.
• controlling erosion caused by rapid reduction of lake levels in the summer.
B NEGATIVELY IMPACTING COMMERCE IN THE VALLEY
Logging and wood management practices are enhanced by maintaining a level of 1425 ft. in order to efficiently take log booms down the Arrow Lakes to Castlegar. Log booms have to be smaller and more trips are required in order to avoid sand bars when water levels are low. This affects the profitability for the logging companies, and ultimately the jobs in the area.
Of course, a healthy economy with more jobs improves the prosperity of all the businesses in the valley
The waterline has been drawn down by mid to late summer in recent years, and many beautiful beaches are exposed, past the sand and down into mud and silt. The water level in the beautiful public beach in Nakusp was so low in the summer of 2015 and 2016 that the log booms placed to provide a boundary for the swimming area were high and dry by the end of July. The businesses of Nakusp rely on tourist activity in the summer to keep them profitable. Tourists will not continue to come to an area with poor beaches, limited boat launching capabilities, and declining fishing.
The water levels have been so low that some of the public docks do not reach the water, especially in the months from September to May. By the end of August some of the docks can no longer be used. Those who want to go boating or fishing in those months have limited options for safely launching their boats. This is a tourism and commerce issue, not just a luxury for valley residents.
C ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE DUE TO FLUCTUATING LAKE LEVELS:
Fishing is another recreation activity and tourist attraction in the area. Spawning channels for Kokanee and other species are so low by spawning season (September), that the fish can't migrate to the proper area, lay their eggs in the wrong place, and the fish population is negatively affected.
Erosion of shoreline and beaches can be seen all along the lakeshore. The mouth of Mosquito Creek is one example.
This proposed solution has two parts.
Water should be released from Revelstoke and Kinbasket Lakes to maintain the water levels in the Arrow Lakes through at least 5 months of the year (May to October) at a minimum of 1430 ft. We cannot wait until 2024 for this policy to change. A comparative study was recently completed to assess maintaining a soft target Arrow Lakes water elevation of 1425 ft. and 1420 ft. A scoping evaluation and public presentation was held on September 12, 2016 in Fauquier BC for the two scenarios. This study demonstrated that there are a number of socio/economic/environmental advantages to maintain a stable lake level in the Arrow Lakes. General consensus of attendees at the meeting was that even a stable level of 1425 feet was not adequate.
It is not right that the most populated lake on the Columbia River in Canada is the one that sacrifices its water levels for all the other lakes in the system, both upstream and downstream. If the present water levels are kept at such low levels for the next few years, the fish will be gone, the beaches will be more eroded, the tourists will be gone, along with the businesses in the valley that rely on tourism. Logging may suffer as well. It is understood that the levels at Kinbasket and Revelstoke are maintained for maximum power generating capability, but there are studies that indicate that maintaining water levels in the Arrow Lakes at a more stable level will ultimately not affect power production negatively over the course of a year. This is from a report generated by the BC government. (See references below)
Since BC Hydro and the BC government have indicated they cannot change their obligation to provide a specified volume of water to the USA until the treaty is renegotiated by 2024, there should be an agreement with the BC government and BC Hydro to recognize the rights of the Arrow Lakes Valley to the economic and quality of life benefits of the most populated Canadian lake on the Columbia River.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR FUTURE NEGOTIOATIONS WITH THE USA:
When negotiating the new terms of a Columbia River Treaty with the USA, we need the BC and Canadian governments to consider the rights and needs of the people of the Arrow Lakes. The time is now to build in terms and conditions to a new treaty that enable better water management so that we are not stuck or restricted to poor practices for another 60 years. Specifically the following should be built into the new treaty agreement:
• Ensure that the Arrow Lakes water level can be maintained at a more stable level of about 1430 feet, particularly from May to October.
• Since Canada seems to have the "sacrifice" lake in the Columbia River (Arrow Lake) and the US has none, a better deal should be negotiated that considers the needs of the Arrow Lakes. Our lake is entitled to the environmental protection afforded by stable lake levels.
Columbia River Treaty Review: http://blog.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty/review/technical-studies/
From the Menu go to Engagement Process then Active Engagement, then Arrow Lakes Reservoir Mid-Evaluation Scenarios Report
Arrow Lakes Reservoir Hydrometric Data at Nakusp (08NE104): www.wateroffice.ec.gc.ca
Then click Real-Time Hydrometric Data and find Station 08NE104
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