Members of the public have been bringing up concerns around the decommissioning of the Idlewild dam and the lowering of the reservoir, given the coming winter and the effect the low water level could have on turtles and fish.
Coun. Norma Blissett brought up the subject during the council inquiries portion of Monday’s city council meeting.
“Are we going to maintain a certain level of water heading into the winter to prevent it from freezing right to the bottom in order to prevent fish mortality and other organisms?” Blissett asked. “Because I would think there is a minimum level of water that needs to be maintained so that that doesn’t happen.”
Eric Sharpe, director of Engineering & Development Services, said the city is trying to do that.
“Some of the factors that influence that are how cold of a year we have, the other is the amount of water that comes down,” Sharpe said. “The level came up quite a bit because the upstream rancher had stopped irrigating, we weren’t sure when he was doing that so all of a sudden he shuts his pumps down and the water levels go up.”
Sharpe added that it is a balancing act.
“We’re being, on one hand, mandated by the Dam Safety Branch that we should not be holding back any water, and by the obvious wildlife needs,” he said. “So we’re trying to walk that fine line.”
Blissett asked if they could maintain a certain amount of water through the winter, then lower it back down in the spring.
Sharpe said that is what they are trying to do.
“I did have a meeting with the Senior Dam Safety Officer, he did have a look at the site and he was not aware of a lot of the challenges that we have been having as far as the various windows for working, the migratory birds, the Western painted turtles and the native and non-native fish species in the reservoir.”
Sharpe said all the various levels of government involved don’t always line up.