Action demanded from BC Hydro at boat ramp open house

The open house in the Emergency Services Building on Wednesday was packed with people frustrated with the lack of long-term action on fixing the Nakusp boat ramp. - Alex Cooper/Arrow Lakes News
The open house in the Emergency Services Building on Wednesday was packed with people frustrated with the lack of long-term action on fixing the Nakusp boat ramp.
— image credit: Alex Cooper/Arrow Lakes News

BC Hydro knows they have a problem on their hands with Nakusp's boat ramp. If they didn't, they heard it loud and clear at an open house they held on Wednesday to show what they were doing about the much maligned concrete slab.

More than 50 local residents came out to express their frustration, displeasure and impatience with BC Hydro's lack of action to extend the boat ramp so it can be used when the Arrow Lakes are low.

For years, they've waited for Hydro to extend the ramp and fix the floating walkway that helps them get in their boats. On Wednesday, they found out only a temporary fix would be put in place this winter, and a long-term extension would have to wait until whenever the water goes back down again.

"It's just a band aid, a total band aid," one frustrated Rod and Gun Club member told me about the temporary filter stone extension that contractor Landmark Forest Management has been installing.

A few weeks ago, the Arrow Lakes News reported that the boat ramp would be extended by 30 metres starting mid-February. At the open house, we learned those plans have been scaled back and all that is happening right is a temporary fix that will extend the ramp by 18 metres; any permanent fix will have to wait until the next low-water period.

At this point, there's little, if any faith that the work will get done.

"We've been hearing this for years," said Hank Scown, the president of the Nakusp Rod and Gun Club. "I'm tired of hearing why we can't do it. Let's figure out a way to do it. It's not going to the moon."

For their part, BC Hydro and Columbia Power Corporation brought out the whole team for the open house. There was two community liaison officers, multiple engineers and other staff on hand, some of whom came all the way from Vancouver.

"We're committed to building the boat ramp," said Sabrina Locicero, one of the community liaison officers. "We want the community to know we are doing that and we're continue to work on it."

She told me this winter's plans for a 30-metre concrete extension were scaled back because of the rapidly rising water levels. Installing a coffer dam, like planned, isn't feasible under the conditions, so instead a rip rap-like filler material is being placed in the existing rocks at the end of the ramp that will extend it by 18 metres.

"Because we weren't able to go ahead with the coffer dam, we're in the planning stage to look at the options for completing the rest of the ramp," said Locicero. "We need to finish the ramp."

The goal is to extend the ramp so you can get a boat in the water at the lowest water levels — that's about 420.5 metres elevation. The 18-metre fix will bring it down to 427.5 metres elevation.

BC Hydro is also planning to fix the floating dock, which has not worked as planned and hasn't descended as far as planned due to design flaws. As was explained by project manager Bill Smith from Columbia Hydro, the dock has been getting hung up on the old anchors. They will be moved further out so the dock can float unimpeded along the length of the ramp.

All that sounds great, but locals want to see things happen. Mayor Karen Hamling said she was happy so many people came out to the open house because, "they've been very unhappy and this certainly gives Hydro and Columbia Power Corp that it's been blowing in the wind."

For Hank Scown, he wants to see BC Hydro follow through on its promises. The dissatisfaction with the crown corporation goes back decades.

"The saddest part is the people who have some positive thoughts, some enthusiasm, who want to contribute and see if we can't make things better in our lives, they get disenchanted," he said. "They get discouraged and disheartened.

I asked Scown what he'd like to see a year from now. "A year from now I'd like to see a family derby on this February long weekend, where the whole community is out with kids on a full-length ramp that was there regardless of what the water level is," he replied. "I wouldn't want to see a hydro truck in sight anywhere. That's what I'd like to see."


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