British Columbia dam safety report highlights 2010 dam breach, other incidents

British Columbia has released the first-annual B.C. dam safety report. The publication is one of a dozen recommendations made by the deputy solicitor general after the failure of the Testalinden Dam in June 2010.

There were five dam incidents that required action in British Columbia last year, in addition to the breach of the Testalinden dam in June that sent a wall of mud down on several homes and orchards near Oliver, B.C, the Canadian Press reported.

The Testalinden Dam likely failed because the spillway and the freeboard, the distance between the water’s surface and the dam’s crest, were inadequate and insufficient, the dam safety report indicates.

The breach has since been stabilized by the dam owner, according to the report.

The five remaining incidents took place at the Goertzen Pond Dam near Osyoyoos, the Grafton Lake Dam on Bowen Island, the Eagle Rock Reservoir south of Chase, the Allan Springs Reservoir in Saanich and the John Hart Dam on the Campbell River.

Dam owners were required to lower water levels, remove a beaver dam, clear a spillway of obstructions, remove vegetation and improve structural problems.

The number of dam owners who complied with reporting requirements increased to 93 percent, up from 87 percent the year before. However, those responses are inconsistent and difficult to interpret, reports indicate.

The report recommends more concise questioning in the future.

There were 99 dam safety audits last year – which falls short of the target of 113 because staff were focused on the Rapid Dam Assessment program put in place after the Testalinden mudslide.

Of B.C’s 1,900 dams, about 1,200 are considered low risk.

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