Forty years and still no workable solution

Edgewood residents frustrated over sloppy BC Hydro high water remedies

  • Dec. 22, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Trisha Shanks

Arrow Lakes News

Approximately 28 citizens of Edgewood came out to the BC Hydro open house on December 15 to voice their concerns about the breakwater put in place by the corporation in 2012.

The current issues on the Edgewood peninsula and around Eagle Creek stem from the damming of the Columbia River to create the hydroelectric dam system. Drastically variable water levels are created in the lake — levels higher than would occur naturally. A floating barrier attached to concrete blocks, called a breakwater, is the main issue at hand. Currently, the breakwater is a disappointment because it was placed in the middle of a beautiful vista — also a sandy summer recreation area — but it is eroding and it is not doing its job. Because of these complaints, BC Hydro is considering its removal. This has locals enraged.

Area K Director Paul Peterson said, “The crux of the matter is that they (BC Hydro) have to riprap the south side of Eagle Creek. The residents hate the breakwater, they hate concrete things sticking out of the ground and they pose a danger to boats when the water goes way overtop of them. But, they want Hydro to leave it where it is until there is a better solution and not to remove it,” which could make erosion matters worse along the peninsula. There was talk of moving it 80-100 feet from where it is in the middle of the beach and burying the breakwater on the north side.

Edgewood residents have suggestions for relocating the breakwater and even have thoughts on a better way to engineer it. BC Hydro agreed long ago to make the area accessible and functional while doing what they can to prevent damage to boats or bodies due to the rising water that passes over the peninsula. These requirements are recommended by the Columbia River Water Use Plan and ordered by the Comptroller of Water Rights.

In addition to the exacerbation of erosion of the peninsula which connects the mainland to the Edgewood Spit, residents have repeatedly tried to bring the Eagle Creek concerns to the table. In May, Peterson contacted BC Hydro to alert them to the creek delta cutting a new channel and taking part of the new breakwater with it. Locals say that the creek needs to be riprapped to control the situation but BC Hydro hasn’t done anything with the creek to date — their agenda involves only the breakwater and boat launch’s safety, structure, effectiveness and, one can only assume, expense.

According to Mary Anne Coules, Stakeholder Engagement Advisor, who responded to interview questions via email to the Arrow Lakes News, that isn’t the case. “We’re not looking at the budget right now; we’re looking at ideas and looking for a solution that will meet the needs of the whole community.”

Present at the meeting in Edgewood and representing BC Hydro were Mary Anne Coules, Stakeholder Engagement Advisor; Laura Creech, Acting Water Program Manager; Christine Boehringer, Project Manager, BC Hydro; and Engineer Eric Morris of Kerr Wood Leidal Associates.

During the open house, Edgewoodites referred to the most recent attempt by Hydro as “a monstrosity”, suggesting that decision makers “jingle change in their pockets while looking out the window in an office tower” questioning why different BC Hydro representatives show up each time there is communication with the town. Many feel that it brings them back to the drawing board explaining things all over again instead of pushing forward to a resolution with the same BC Hydro employees who already know the story. They also feel that their concerns and requests are not being heard. It is the locals’ hope that a good, permanent solution be found but that the current breakwater remain in place until it does.

Creech did her best to assuage the concerns of the locals with active listening techniques, continually saying that she “understood” and that she “heard them” while also admitting she was merely information gathering and would be creating a report for the Director of Environmental Risk Management and the Vice President of (power) Generation, neither of which were in attendance at the meeting.

“We’ve been working with local residents since the beginning of this project, and will continue to do so. We’re committed to finding a solution that will work for the whole community,” writes Coules.

As far as the official response on whether the breakwater stays or goes, Coules said, “No decisions have been made at this time, but we are committed to continuing to work with the residents of Edgewood to find a solution that will meet the needs of the whole community. As always, public safety will be the driving factor in this decision.”

BC Hydro will be drafting minutes from the open house and forwarding them to all of the attendees who left an email address. They say that they will be looking into the ideas proposed at the meeting, and will keep the community informed as they move ahead.