The Gold Creek Dam, a key piece of the Cranbrook’s water supply infrastructure, is in dire need of replacement. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.

The Gold Creek Dam, a key piece of the Cranbrook’s water supply infrastructure, is in dire need of replacement. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.

City to seek out $14M in grant funding to replace Gold Creek Dam

As the city heads into a new budget cycle, council and administration will be seeking out grant funding opportunities from the provincial and federal governments to replace the Gold Creek Dam, a key piece of the city’s water supply infrastructure.

The dam “is in a critical state of disrepair due to its age and deteriorating condition” while a replacement is expected to cost approximately $14 million, according to a staff report.

In 2018, a major piping failure was discovered, causing the dam to become unstable, necessitating emergency repairs that were made at the time to prevent the full failure of the structure.

The staff report identifies serious consequences of a full collapse.

“This past summer’s drought and wildfire events have highlighted the critical nature of having a sustainable and adequate water supply,” reads the city’s report. “Under the current operating conditions, if the Gold Creek Dam was to fail, we would immediately be at critical risk of a complete draw down of the Phillips reservoir, which would be followed by an inability to supply the upper pressure zones of the City with water for drinking and fire protection.”

So far, the city has invested $500,000 into the design of a new dam, which is nearing completion. Staff are hoping that a stronger case for grant funding opportunities can be made with a completed design and shovel-ready project.

A previous grant opportunity three years ago was unsuccessful in part because the current size of the Gold Creek Dam does not meet the provincial threshold as a classified dam. However, the design of the new dam structure will meet that criteria.

The existing Gold Creek Dam itself has a storage capacity of 70 ML (Mega Litres), but only 30 ML is available to due sedimentation.

Both Gold and Joseph Creek, along with groundwater wells, make up the city’s water supply.

Gold Creek supplies approximately 40 per cent, with the ability for that capacity to be much higher. The city uses approximately 5,000 ML per year, with 2,000 ML per year coming from Gold Creek.

The City’s current license for Gold Creek is up to 13,402 ML per year with first water rights. Joseph Creek is 15,607ML per year and up to 44ML per day.

The City has third water rights to Joseph Creek.

The supply from Gold Creek supplements the supply from Joseph Creek, as the city cannot take any more water from Joseph Creek through the Phillips Reservoir due to minimum water levels and flows for fish and two water license holders with higher water rights below the city.

“The City regularly adds Gold Creek water to Joseph Creek during these low flow periods to maintain the minimum flows,” reads the city report. “Without Gold Creek water the City would be on severe water restrictions to ensure potable drinking water.”

Members of city council took a tour of the city’s water supply infrastructure on Monday, Sept. 11, where they got a first-hand look at the municipal water and wastewater systems, while also learning about the impact of this summer’s drought.

Stops included the Gold Creek Dam, to understand the impact of mountain pine beetle on the forests in the watershed and related wildfire concerns, as well as the Phillips Reservoir and the city’s sewage lagoons.