Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Downton Reservoir to be kept at a reduced elevation level for 10-15 years

Downton Reservoir to be kept at a reduced elevation level for 10-15 years

I have received this letter this morning and will be following up in order to determine the various implications for our community.

Dear Ms. Demare, Mr. Verner and Ms. Tegart,

This message is to advise you of potential operational changes for the Downton Reservoir in the Bridge-Seton system, which could result in a lowering of the reservoir level for a 10-15 year period.  No decisions have yet been made to proceed, pending further discussions with St’at’imc (as per the St’at’imc Hydro Agreement), the Comptroller of Water Rights and provincial and federal agencies.

The purpose of the potential changes is to address a dam safety risk at the La Joie Dam related to seepage, which causes concerns in relation to seismic events.  BC Hydro Dam Safety has recommended a modified reservoir operation of Downton Reservoir, to reduce the reservoir elevation level from 749.81 m to  734 m, as an interim measure to mitigate the seismic risks identified at La Joie Dam until capital upgrades can be initiated and completed in approximately 10 to 15 years’ time.  This modified reservoir operation results in ~50% reduction in active storage volume in Downton.  The proposed changes will not impact the existing Water Use Plan order. 

Public safety is the number one priority for BC Hydro, and BC Hydro’s rigorous Dam Safety Program ensures that the dam will remain safe.  The Dam Safety Program involves regular inspection of the dams to ensure safety in the event of earthquake or flood.  The program compares the condition of BC Hydro dams against current national and international best practices and continuously upgrades the dams on this basis.

The La Joie Dam remains safe under normal operating loads. As noted above, there are concerns for the safety of the dam when subjected to large seismic loads when the reservoir is high. Keeping the reservoir low will enable the dam to withstand a large seismic event.  Regular maintenance and monitoring by Dam Safety will continue at La Joie.

If you have any questions please contact me.


Judy Dobrowolski

 Judy Dobrowolski
Senior Stakeholder Engagement Advisor
Capital Projects Communications  
BC Hydro
333 Dunsmuir Street, 15th Floor
Vancouver, B.C.  V6B 5R3

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Time to Deal with Trees and Our Favorite Topic.....

I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Easter!  If you are coming to the Bridge River Valley, don't forget to stop by the Gold Bridge Community Club on Sunday at 10 am for Pancake Breakfast and Easter Egg Hunt, followed by the Haylmore site cleanup and a Community Garden organizing meeting.  - Debbie

Time to deal with fir infected with Douglas Fir Bark Beetle
If you have a property on Gun Lake and haven't read some of my previous posts on the Douglas Fir Bark Beetle and its spread in our area, please see this link:

The time is now to cut down and either burn, discard in the transfer station or remove the bark.  This beetle will be flying in May and will infect other fir trees within 8-10 feet.  Once in, your tree or your neighbor's tree is dead, it's over!

Our favorite Topic....Hurley River Rd.
MLA Sturdy supported by MLA Tegart have been working on our behalf on our requests to have the Hurley River Rd. put in the jurisdiction of one ministry and also to have a more consistent, overall level of maintenance on the road.  I received a copy of a letter to one of our property owners from their MLA and I quote:
"This ministry and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are currently engaged in discussions focused on providing a more consistent level of road maintenance across the entire 49 kms of Hurley River Road. Both agencies have heard from the public and stakeholders, and we are facilitating a "one window" approach to government, where one local government office (either in Merritt or Squamish) would field all call regarding road maintenance issues.

The two agencies expect to have an arrangement in place to address many of the issues that have been raised by late April 2014..."

This letter was sent on March 27 and signed by an Assistant Deputy Minister.

So folks, fingers crossed something happens and delivers a consistent level of maitnenance throughout the road.  This will support many different aspects of the well being of the valley!

Lone Goat Snowmobile Trail and Cabin - On the way to a Sec. 56 status

Click here for the answer to.............What is a Section 56 you ask?

The SLRD received a referral notice from the MFLNRO Recreation Sites & Trails requesting opinion on a potential Sec. 56 status for the Lone Goat Snowmobile Trail & Cabin.  When staff asked me about it,  my first question was has the BRV Snowmobile Club also been consulted.  Turns out the Ministry official did not have current contact information for the Club so I was able to put them in touch with Brian Stuart, the current secretary of the Club.

My understanding is that the Ministry and the Club have had a long discussion and the Club has given their two thumbs up on the legal establishment of the Trail.  Later this year they will likely negoatiate a partnership agreement with the Ministry.  Very positive step for our area and the BRV Snowmobile Club..  SLRD also gave their approval of the idea.

Future for Independent Power Projects - Run of the River etc. in our area
Those of you wondering if we might land up with more IPP's in our area in the short/medium term might want to read this article.

Leftover Piles of Timber and Slash from Tyaughton Lake Fire 2009
Over the last several years I have communicated with MOFLNRO re the leftover piles of slash & timber at the north end of Gun Lake.  Nothing really happened with them. Recently the SLRD Board got behind the request at my prompting as this is a fire hazard in our area.  This is the response we recently received.

Tyaughton Lake - Gun Creek neighborhood issues

Tyax Resort OCP Amendment/Rezoning and issues related to it

The SLRD received an application for a rezoning and OCP amendment regarding the Tyax Lodge property (Site A) and an adjacent property (Site B) .The amendmentapplication requests zoning to allow additional staff accommodation to be constructed on both properties. A dormitory style building was proposed for the Tyax Lodge property along with office and storage uses related to the helicopter operations at Site A, and a multi-unit housing building is proposed to be constructed on Lot 6 at Site B. SLRD staff have developed draft amendment bylaws for the OCP (Bylaw 1305) and Zoning Bylaw (Bylaw 1306) as per the Board’s resolution of December 16, 2013

The Electoral Area Directors Committee  recommended to the SLRD Board to require that in order for the Bylaw to proceed, Report from Agenda (incl.Maps)
a) restrictive covenant is executed to formalize the exclusion zone identified in the 2011 McClung Report for the Tyax Lodge property (PID 002-306-441).
b. Receipt of reports for both Site A (PID 002-306-441) and B (024-877-646) indicating
assurances from a professional engineer that the multiple unit accommodation,
accesses, driveways and other intended uses are “safe for the uses intended”.
c. A restrictive covenant is executed to ensure that staff housing is the primary use for the proposed new buildings with the option that the property owner could approach the SLRD in the future to amend the covenant if necessary.
d. A restrictive covenant is executed regarding the terms and conditions for a
campground use in the exclusion zone, along with a geotechnical report providing
assurances from a professional engineer that summer camping is “safe for the use
e. An assessment of the septic situation will be required for the existing and proposed campground use on the Tyax Lodge property (PID 002-306-441). This assessment must determine what the existing systems can handle in addition to what would be required with the proposed expanded campground of up to 50 campsites.

Tyax subsequently suspended the process in order to rework aspects of it.

During this process I did receive a fair amount of input/feedback.

One of the issues that was raised is the SLRD notification process.  I went back to the staff and asked them for an explanation of the notification of public hearing process, here it is:

“Hello Director Demare,

Here is a summary of the Local Government Act requirements and the notification process for the Tyax application:

Based on the comments received by the SLRD recently there appears to be a difference between the expectations of residents and property owners at Tyaughton Lake, and an understanding of the requirements of the Local Government Act, which legislates the notification procedures for public hearings.

The Local Government Act (LGA) requires that notice of public hearing be given in accordance with Section 892, which includes a notice published in at least two consecutive issues of a newspaper with the last publication appearing not less than three and not more than 10 days before the public hearing.

The notice of the public hearing must also be mailed in accordance with the SLRD Procedures Bylaw No. 929, which states that the notice of public hearing shall be mailed to the owners of the parcels that are within 150 m of the boundary of a parcel under application.

It should be noted that the Local Government Act requirements do not include a process for notifying property owners about an application except in preparation for a public hearing.

The SLRD has met and exceeded the requirements of the LGA with two consecutive notices in each of the three following newspapers:  the Lillooet News, the Pique, and the Squamish Chief.  A letter was mailed (on February 25) to properties within 150 m of the subject properties in the application with a notice about the public hearing.

The SLRD has gone beyond the requirements of the LGA in several other instances.  In December 2013, the SLRD also requested that Tyax post a notice on their website regarding the rezoning application.  The SLRD created a project page on its website for the rezoning application where information, staff reports, and draft bylaws could be found.  The SLRD has also communicated the notification of the public hearing through the Electoral Area A Director, and Area A email group, and the Bridge River Valley Community Association.

Once Tyax Wilderness Resort resubmits their revised application, I will see what I can do to enhance the required notifications including:  
  • One month notification prior to Public Hearing
  • Signage
  • A broader notification via mail
I must do this in the context of the full board and I cannot by myself make this happen, but I will put it forward.

The second big issue to come out of the feedback from the original rezoning application was a consistent concern regarding the level of activity of both the floatplane and helicopters.  I heard from many property owners their concerns that the noise and activity on the lake is impacting their enjoyment of their property.  I did seek information from Transport Canada, this is the response:

"Thank you for your telephone inquiry of March 27 requesting information on float plane activity on Lake Tyaughton, here is some information.

At the outset, I should explain the role of Transport Canada. In the case of civil aviation in Canada, Transport Canada’s focus is on overseeing a safe and secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation system. Our emphasis is on safety. The Aeronautics Act and Canadian Aviation Regulations provide a comprehensive framework through which safety is regulated. Included are regulations dealing with minimum altitudes of aircraft, aircraft noise emissions and aircraft operating procedures.

There are no Aeronautical Regulations (Canadian Aviation Regulations – CARs) that prohibit a float plane from using a specific lake or water surface.  Some lakes in BC, like ones that are used as a water supply for example, often have Provincial or National Park restrictions to motorized vessels.  However, there are no current restrictions to float plane operations on Tyaughton Lake, or any of the lakes in that area. 

Restrictions to Flight operations is strictly a Federal Issue.  They are regulated primarily by the Aeronautics Act, the Canadian Aviation Regulations and associated Standards.  Other than at large busy airports, there are no noise abatement procedures for small airports or on a ‘small remote lake’ such as Tyaughton.  The Province, Municipalities or local authorities do not have the jurisdiction to control Aviation matters.  BC Ministry of Environment, through  BC Provincial Parks have land control authority which might prevent docking or off loading around a lake, but not the landing and taking off from the surface.  Any restrictions on land use would be equally applicable to cars, camping, cottages, or other land uses and users.

As mentioned before certain lakes and watersheds that are primary sources for drinking water for a large population can be restricted to only Non-motorized vessels. e.g. Capilano watershed, which is the source of drinking water for a large part of the Lower Mainland.  As a float plane is considered a vessel when it operates on the water, the boating regulations apply.  Any change in vessel regulations would effect all other boating users on the lake as well. 

Wildlife control areas such as bird sanctuaries, and Noise sensitive areas, can be listed on Aviation maps, but they only warn pilots to avoid such areas and be aware of the sensitivities.  There are no Canadian Aviation Regulation (CARs) prohibiting the low flight or landing in these areas.

As the summer days get longer and start earlier, the residents in the area can expect the possibility of increased float plane operations.  This is also true of increased vehicle traffic on the roads, and recreational boating on the water.  Examination of available maps and photos indicates that there are a considerable number of roads, cottages, and docks around the lake.  Restriction of use of this public area to one group of users as opposed to all users is not in accordance with keeping open access to all Canadians.

Float plane operations are only allowed during daylight hours.  As you know, in the summer the daylight starts early and lasts later.  Although the Pilot may not be violating any CARs, early morning arrivals and departures over residential areas (or temporary residential areas, i.e. campsites) often strain the good neighbour policy.  The Pilot can be asked to consider the other users of a recreation area and conduct his/her activities accordingly.

Again the best solution is to keep open communication with all the users of this lake community, and come to mutual consensus for everyone’s acceptable use.  Transport Canada should not be the facilitator of these discussions, nor I believe, would the BC Ministry of Environment want to get involved.  However, I hope you find this information to be helpful and a useful tool when communicating with the Tyaughton Lake community."

I have checked with the SLRD staff and as of today's date (April 15) Tyax Wilderness Resort has not resubmitted their rezoning application.  As I indicated at the time they suspended the orginal application, this is an opportunity for the Tyaughton Lake neighborhood to work out between everyone a good neighbor policy through dialogue with each other.   With this in mind the Tyaughton Lake Ratepayer's Association have had at least one meeting between property owners and Tyax Wilderness Resort.    

It has been reported that one thing was clear at the meeting, and that is that Tyax Air and to a lesser extent TLH is a major concern for the vast majority of property owners in the area of the lake.  TLH is willing to work with us to try to mitigate some of the disturbance that they cause, we’re investigating ways that can happen.  One of the first things TLH has committed to preparing is a summary of their operating plan when it comes to the helicopter and why.  According to the Tyaughton Lake Ratepayers Association this will hopefully allow for continued dialogue and working out of a good neighbor policy.  In addtion, I understand,  Al Macdonald (TRA Director at Large) has been asked to lead a committee to meet and discuss property owners concerns regarding Tyax Air use of Tyaughton Lake.  

This is where things stand to the best of my understanding at the moment.  I continue to strongly encourage dialogue and accomodation between all neighbors and businesses.  If there is anything I can do to assist at this time please let me know.

South Chilcotin Mountain Park Plan - DRAFT available for comment until May 30

You will find the plan and the instructions on how to comment at this link:

I have reviewed this document and have drafted some comments.  The SLRD planning staff will also be reviewing in the context of the Official Community Plan and other planning documents.  I will post ALL of that once complete.