BC Government’s Annual Dam Safety Report focuses on more audits

Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo


VICTORIA – Improved monitoring, increased audits and dam owner training highlighted the BC government’s third annual BC Dam Safety Report, released earlier this month.

There are 1,636 regulated dams in British Columbia, ranging in size from massive structures such as the W.A.C. Bennett dam, to small earth-filled dams used for private, domestic water storage.

Both the Peace Canyon and W.A.C. Bennett dams passed inspections without incident.

All dam owners in BC are responsible for the inspection and safety of their dams.

The BC government says the annual dam safety report outlines the progress it has made toward meeting the recommendations made in the deputy solicitor general’s July 2010 Review of the Testalinden Dam failure.

The dam at Testalinden Lake located near Oliver, BC burst after heavy rainfall on June 13, 2010, creating a debris torrent landslide that descended about a mile to the valley below destroying at least five homes and farms.

The dam was built in the 1930s and was in poor maintenance at the time. The landslide blocked British Columbia Highway 97. Debris from a home lay strewn across the road.

The 2012–2013 report includes data on incidents and failures, dam construction, inspection, compliance, corrective actions and program management highlights.

From April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations sent compliance surveys to 339 dams earmarked as having “high”, “very high” and “extreme” consequences if failures were experienced. The surveys resulted in a 98 percent return rate.

Owners of 130 “high, “very high” and “extreme” consequence dams have hired professional engineers to undertake dam safety reviews.

“During the reporting, the dam safety branch conducted 147 audits, 15 per cent more than the target of 128,” the Ministry said. “There were five minor dam failures, three dam alerts and six minor incidents, all of which have been resolved to the ministry’s satisfaction.”

Sixty-seven private dam owners across the province have received formal training in the safe management of dams as a result of the “rapid dam assessment project” which followed the 2010 Testalinden dam failure.

During the current year, dam safety operators co-operated with natural resource officers to develop a compliance and enforcement strategy to streamline the provinces dam safety program.

The ministry says this collaboration resulted in heightened awareness and a marked increase in the number of dam safety reviews initiated by owners themselves.

A copy of this years report and the 2011 and 2012 reports are available online at www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd/public_safety/dam_safety/index.html.