LETTER: Marshall Lake - a treasure worth protecting

By Contributor
July 11th, 2012

Open letter to MLA John Slater:

The Greenwood Improvement Society was formed in 1991 by local residents concerned about the continued well being of Greenwood and the surrounding area. The founding purpose of the Society was and is: “to educate the public, provide public amenities and to preserve and/or restore sites of educational and/or historic interest, and develop these amenities in an orderly manner”.

Accordingly, we support a co-operative, proactive approach to the retention and long-term management of Marshall (Providence) Lake in its present status.

Of extreme concern to us at present is the proposed future status of Marshall Lake. 

Specifically, the Ministry of Environment’s (MOE) stance that:

  • the Marshall Lake dam is unstable—which it is not as indicated by qualified professional reports and,
  • that the Ministry does not have either the funds to upgrade it nor staff to monitor it and,
  • that unless some entity takes over complete responsibility for it, its level will be significantly lowered and its status changed from a small lake to little more than a large pond,

—is neither reasonable nor responsible. 

The government has adequate funds to properly manage B.C.’s resources; they have the choice as to where these funds are spent.

There is a big difference in the two and we believe that proper, safe management of the dam does not require an inordinate expense and whatever work is necessary to maintain the lake at its current level should be proactively undertaken by the government.  

Also, as indicated by the cited report the “dam does not require operations staff” and “there are few operational requirements for Providence Dam.”   And what is most significant is that the dam was deemed to be “marginally safe”.   

While one would think that being “marginally safe” was barely adequate,  in actual fact, because of the many structural and integrity requirements necessary for any dam to be deemed “marginally safe” means that it is safe barring an inordinate and unpredictable natural disaster; therefore the ‘marginally safe’ category means that it meets all provincial requirements to be considered reasonably safe. 

Also, the risk of damage should such a disaster occur was “high” or level 2. Most other dams in B.C. would likely have a risk rating of “very high” or level 1 yet there is no mention of them being decommissioned or turned over to local communities. No recommendation to decommission a dam should be based almost solely on the risk of damage rating.

You have stated several times that more dams should be built in the Kettle River drainage.

We herein request therefore that an already existing dam, which requires far less funds to maintain than designing and constructing a new one will get your support for preservation instead of virtual destruction. 

The West Boundary area is nearly always in a water-deficit position with the Phoenix Forest area being especially so, and retention of Marshall Lake at its present level will help, albeit in a relatively small way, mitigate water shortages especially during drought periods.  

Marshall Lake is not only important for its water storage capabilities but also its ecological, historical, educational and recreational values which are definitely worth “preserving and/or restoring”. They also contribute significantly to both the natural and enhanced features of the area which, in turn, add appreciably to the economic value to the entire Boundary area.

Marshall lake is a local treasure; one that has innumerable values only part of which have been noted above. These values (often referred to as ecological goods and services), while not being easily equated to hard, dollar values, are significantly important and hence have much more value than what the government may have to spend, monetarily, to preserve them.

We sincerely hope therefore that you will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Marshall Lake is preserved at its current level and whatever improvements are necessary to ensure its long-term integrity and safety are completed in a timely manner.  Its overall ownership and management oversight should also remain under the jurisdiction of the MOE.   Members of the local community have offered to assist significantly in this work.

Yours truly,

Fred Marshall

President, Greenwood Improvement Society

CC: Tara White, MOE: Bill Baird, Irene Perepolkin; Nipper Kettle; Brian Taylor; Randy Kappas;  Chris Stevenson

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