Idlewild Dam to be decommissioned

Cranbrook city council has decided to decommission the Idlewild Dam.

Council has decided to decommission the Idlewild Dam.

At the regular council meeting on Monday, Mayor Lee Pratt said that over the course of an in-camera session prior to the regular meeting, council had come to the decision.

“We had a closed meeting before council and what came out of that is council has decided to decommission the Idlewild Dam,” Pratt said. “Basically what that means is that we’re going to draw the water out.”

The meeting included a review of findings and recommendations of an engineering report on the safety of the dam at Idlewild Park.

Pratt said a number of issues had influenced the decision.

“It’s not a decision that came lightly to council,” he said and came down to safety.

The Dam Breach Inundation Study noted if the dam failed, the uncontrolled release of water from Idlewild Lake would follow Joseph Creek through town and potentially flood up to 21 per cent of the city. That could impact as many as 2,100 residential properties and nearly 500 businesses. The report noted there was also potential for loss of life.

Pratt said the city needs to lower the lake as a temporary measure to protect the public, but would revisit the matter in the future.

“The longer term of it is… what we want to do is rebuild that dam properly, to today’s standards, so that it will pass and be good for many years to come.”

That would include a new dam, a restored lake and rehabilitated spillway system.

He said at that point he hopes they can get community groups, organizations and the public involved in the rebuilding of the park as well.

“We want to rebuild that park to a bigger, better park then it was with a lot of enhancements,” Pratt said.

“Idlewild is an important asset and we want to include residents in the discussion about what a rehabilitated Idlewild Lake should look like.”

He said he hoped the city could begin on that soon and Idlewild lake wouldn’t be a creek for long.

Pratt also noted the city has been in touch with the Regional District of East Kootenay on the matter. There have been discussions on a potential partnership with the regional district on the park in the future.

“We recognize the significance of Idlewild to the residents and visitors of the area, and look forward to the opportunity to work with the city to create a new plan for the lake and park,” said Rob Gay, RDEK board chair .

Pratt also noted this the lowering of the lake is only the first step, and Cranbrook residents will be kept up to speed on what is happening.

“We look forward to consulting with the public on the future of Idlewild Lake and the park,” Pratt said.

The city had previously estimated the cost of replacing the dam and dredging the lake to be $2.5 million, back in September 2014.

Idlewild dam was built in the 1930s and is an earth-fill dam with a concrete core. The city said the dam is classified as a very high consequence dam by the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations. That was confirmed in the Dam Breach Inundation Study, completed by Urban Systems in 2014.