Safety still an issue on Carpenter Reservoir 

The Gold Bridge-based Reservoir Safety Committee has been stonewalled in its attempts to meet with B.C. Hydro to discuss safety at the Carpenter Reservoir.

"We've been trying to meet with them for some time," said RSC representative Dave Watkins. "But they don't seem to like talking to us."

The Carpenter Reservoir is part of B.C. Hydro's Bridge River system, which stretches west into the Coast Mountains from Lillooet.

The RSC has most recently been turned down twice by B.C. Hydro following requests to address the company's local water-use planning committee about safety issues.

There have been 11 drowning deaths in the reservoir since 1980. There have been a total of 22 deaths in the area in the past 20 years.

At its Oct. 22 board meeting, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District threw its support behind the RSC, and has directed Watkins and area directors Russ Oakley and Sheila McLean to attend the next WUP meeting.

The 14-member planning committee, which is appointed by B.C. Hydro, includes only one Gold Bridge resident – a fisheries consultant.

According to the B.C. Hydro Web site, the overall goal of the consultative WUP process is to consider economic, social – including safety, said Watkins – and environmental values.

Reservoir safety is not identified as a specific issue.

Most of the 22 deaths have resulted from cars going off Road 40 between Lillooet and Gold Bridge.

At some places, the road is as high as 250 metres above the reservoir.

Most hazardous locations do not currently have safety barriers that would prevent vehicles from going off the road.

Watkins said many, if not all, of these deaths could have been prevented by adequate safeguards.

But B.C. Hydro spokesperson Barry Wilkinson said the road is not the company's responsibility.

"It's absolutely not our responsibility," he told Pique Newsmagazine . "It's a public road."

Wilkinson said the Ministry of Transportation and Highways should look after improving road safety.

"That's nonsense," Watkins disagreed. "We're talking about reservoir safety here."

According to Wilkinson, B.C. Hydro has talked "at length" with the MoTH and ICBC about improving safety on Road 40, which is also known as the Lillooet-Pioneer Highway.

"Highway" is a misnomer though, considering most of the gravel road is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other.

Wilkinson said B.C. Hydro recently contributed $2.35 million towards safety improvements on Carpenter Reservoir.

According to the RSC, only $500,000 of that money was designated for Road 40.

MoTH has estimated that it will cost $4 million for safety upgrades to 46 potentially hazardous areas.

The Bridge River system consists of four generating stations in two separate watersheds. There are also three dams and three reservoirs, including the Carpenter.

The system generates enough electricity to power 300,000 homes, and accounts for six per cent of the company's total electrical output.

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