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Hydro will take spill into account

Cheakamus water use plan still under review

According to Pieter Bekker, the Water Use Planning Program Director for Land and Water B.C., the recent spill will be taken into account when government makes a decision regarding a B.C. Hydro application to divert more water out of the Cheakmus River into hydro generation facilities. B.C. Hydro’s proposed Water Use Plan would see the current interim order rescinded, which could reduce the current flow into the river by 80 per cent.

"Nothing is etched in stone at this point," said Bekker. "Whatever information comes out of this spill, we would have to look at that, and we would certainly be mindful of it when we made a decision. We’ve already made a commitment to commercial rafting operators that we wouldn’t implement a plan until Sept. 15, until they can finish their current season, but the way things are going it’s going to be a lot longer than that before we can make a decision."

Recreational and commercial anglers are opposed to any change in the current flow regime because they believe it will have a negative effect on recovering fish stocks, while questioning B.C. Hydro’s use of certain indicator species to measure the impacts of a lower flow.

Brian Clark, the Provincial Incident Commander, says that Fisheries and Oceans Canada would have to agree to any change in flow, and that they likely won’t be able to make a decision until all the facts are in regarding the impact of the spill.

"Basically it needs the support of the fisheries agencies, and maybe (flow) is part of the restoration program," he said. "I can’t comment now on what we’re going to want to do, but it may change from a fisheries perspective what we want to do with water in the river. All I can say is B.C. Hydro is giving us everything we need right now."

• CN Rail is currently involved in a second spill incident, which occurred two days prior to the Cheakamus spill. Some 43 cars of a 140-car train derailed about 65 km west of Edmonton, spilling an estimated 730,00 litres of fuel oil into Lake Wabamun, a popular cottage and vacation destination. Making matters worse, days after the spill it was also revealed that the train was also carrying a toxic chemical used to treat utility poles and other types of wood.

Well and drinking water advisories are in effect for the area and a massive cleanup effort is underway. The Alberta government is currently looking into prosecuting CN for the spill, and the Sierra Club of Canada has called on Ottawa to prosecute CN for the spills in Alberta and Cheakamus River.