The tragedy that claimed a father and son after uncontrolled water was released from Cleveland Dam on October 1 could have been averted — if Metro Vancouver had acted on a key recommendation in one of its own reports.
In 2012, a consultant hired by Metro Vancouver presented a report on the Joint Capilano-Seymour Water Use Plan (JWUP).
The plan came up with water management recommendations for Metro Vancouver’s existing water control structures for Cleveland Dam and Seymour Falls Dam.
This plan was also endorsed by a Consultative Committee made up of local government representatives, First Nations, and community, recreational and environmental associations.
A preliminary list of issues potentially affected by changes to water conditions was developed.
Safety of anglers and paddlers and other water recreationists was one among the issues which was addressed and for which recommendations were put forward.
However, eight years after the water plan was endorsed, the recommendation that could have prevented the October 1 tragedy still remains to be implemented.
The plan called for real-time flow gauges, and also “access to forecast information on dam releases for the coming week”.
“This option consisted of providing information to the public on anticipated operational plans and flows in the lower river in the upcoming week. This would therefore provide short term forecasts for how dam releases may vary over time. This information would be shared through an internet website,” the report recommends.
While Metro Vancouver does post information about real time river flows, the information it promised eight years ago — weekly forecasts about water release from the dam — was never delivered.
It is information that could have served as an early warning system for anglers and saved two lives, tragedies that Metro Vancouver is now blaming on human error.
Don Bradley, division manager for media and intergovernmental relations, pointed the North Shore Daily Post to the link for daily river flows.
However, he didn’t say if Metro Vancouver had a website or a webpage where anglers or others can access information about planned water releases from the dam.
The tragedy of October 1 is the kind of safety issue the authors of the report talk about in the report.
“Sudden increases in flow releases from the dams can increase water levels downstream, which can be a safety issue for anglers who are on the river banks or gravel bars,” the report says.
However, the report also notes that Metro Vancouver has Emergency Information Response Plans and these include flood routing procedures and protocols for these “high flow events”.
When asked, Metro Vancouver didn’t explain specifically what the emergency plan was and how or whether it was implemented on October 1.
On the emergency plan, Bradley said, “We do have emergency response plans for the dams that we operate, per regulatory requirements of the B.C. Dam Safety Program.”
Edgemont resident Corrie Kost takes a keen interest in civic issues, diligently keeps records, and closely watches local and regional government meetings.
Kost first alerted the North Shore Daily Post about the Metro Vancouver report.
He has now written to the District of North Vancouver, urging the district to raise with Metro Vancouver the need for an alarm when water is released from the dam.
“The report speaks for itself on what Metro Vancouver needs to do when it comes to safety,” Kost says.
“They need an effective alarm and a water-level monitoring system as recommended in the 2012 report. If they had implemented these strategies, we may not have lost two precious lives,” he says.