Road closure a "dam" shame
Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff is less-than-pleased with B.C. Hydro’s decision to permanently close the Hugh Keenleyside Dam road to the public on Sept. 14.
Chernoff said he understood a meeting scheduled for Sept. 10 at the Sandman Hotel was to garner stakeholder input before making a final decision – and he’s disappointed to hear B.C. Hydro only intends to offer an informational session.
“Why would you do that … what’s the point?” Chernoff said. “Informational meeting? That’s not what we asked for. If they made the decision and are not listening to any more input … that’s hardly fair to any of the stakeholders.”
Rachel Hamilton, stakeholder engagement advisor for B.C. Hydro, said the decision was made long ago, and has remained firm from the first time the city was informed of the impending closure.
“The decision to close the road was always a done deal. It’s part of a safety decision – we don’t consult on safety decisions,” she said.
Hamilton was quoted earlier this year by the Castlegar Current and the Castlegar News as saying the safety concern involved possible threats of terrorism, but said in an interview Wednesday that this is an “incorrect message”.
“The concern is not terrorism,” she said. “Our main concern is worker safety. This is an operating industrial site (and it’s almost unheard of to have a public thoroughfare) running through an operating industrial site.”
She said public safety was also an factor in the decision, as was the provision of reliable power.
“Reducing risk means ensuring reliable power,” she said.
“The road over the dam has always been a private road that has never been open 24/7,” she added. “The reason we chose Sept 14 (as the closure date) is we’ll be beginning a major maintenance project with heavy equipment. It’s a large-scale improvement project to the spillway gate, and (the road) would have been closed anyway for at least a month, likely longer.”
She said the tipping factor was the existence of an alternate route along Broadwater Road – and the Sept. 10 meeting will allow B.C. Hydro and Columbia Power Corp. representatives to discuss such matters with the community.
“We are open to talking to the community, providing them with information, hearing their concerns, and consulting on mitigating measures we can take to offset the impact to the community.”
As a for-instance, she suggested the possibility of negotiating with the Ministry of Transportation to have Broadwater Road upgraded.
Chernoff said he doesn’t think that’s good enough.
“That road has been operating over the dam for 40 years with no significant safety issues – why now? And why wouldn’t you consult the community before making a decision that affects them, too?” he said, adding he plans to take the issue to the provincial ministry as well as B.C. Hydro executives.
Nor is the Castlegar Fire Department on board with the closure – fire chief Gerry Rempel said earlier in the year that emergency vehicles will be hampered by the road closure, a sentiment echoed Wednesday by acting fire chief Dwayne Monsen (Rempel is currently on holiday).
“Anytime you take any option away, there’s a downside to it,” he said. “Now we have one less river crossing for emergency access.”