Deadline still looming for Marshall Lake dam
With rumours growing about a deadline for Marshall Lake’s ultimate demise activists, politicians and land owners continue to meet with key provincial staff to save the lake.
Greenwood resident Christopher Stevenson, one of the key people leading the charge to protect the small lake which lies between Grand Forks and Greenwood above Phoenix Ski Hill, is setting off an alarm floating Oct. 15 as the date they will decommission the dam at the lake.
Stevenson said that he has been told that the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources is taking the first steps necessary to start decommissioning the dam that maintains the lake’s water levels by setting up contracts for roadwork.
“I’ve heard it from more than one source now, that it’s coming. I would rather tentatively say Oct. 15 with the possibility that it will be Oct. 20 than not say anything at all,” said Stevenson. “I want people to know there’s an urgency to this and that we’re running out of time.”
Stevenson said he can’t confirm the rumours because the Ministry, including the area’s MLA, are not communicating with him or any of the group working to keep the lake intact. Even after presenting petitions, done both online and print, to Minister Steve Thomson in the Okanagan recently, Stevenson said he still doesn’t have any answers or indication of what plans are in the works for the lake.
The province first raised the idea of decommissioning the Marshall Lake dam site in 2010 after a dam failed above Oliver, B.C. causing significant damage to homes and the community. The government then examined other dams around the province and in a media splash of leaked documents, the Marshall Lake dam was noted as a high risk. At that time, the province offered two options for the dam which are still on the table today: either a local government takes on responsibility for monitoring, and repairs for the dam, or the dam is decommissioned.
Currently the lake area is a forest recreation site where locals and visitors can spend their day picnicking and fishing. In the winter, the area becomes host to many cross country skiers who enjoy the trails and visit the Dacha built by the local ski club. Part of the lake and property surrounding it are owned by the Gottselig family and the other part is owned by Kettle River Resources, a mining company.
On Tuesday Richard and Donna Gottselig presented the Ministry with three proposals on how the lake can be preserved into the future. In the same meeting, staff gave the Gottseligs eight different proposals for the area that include engineering reports, according to Diane Gottselig in comments on the Marshall Lake Stewardship group’s Facebook page.
“Currently we are unable to access our cabin by car and with difficulties by truck (due to a ditch already dug to drain the lake levels). My parents informed them we would like our access back to ensure safety and also to allow us proper use of the property for the rest of the hunting season, and also that they may not start any type of activity with trucks on our property during that time,” said Diane Gottselig.
“No plans are for sure or set in stone as of now. One of the proposals on the list involves keeping the lake and maintaining it as is. The proposals have been all worked out and priced by engineers which was very costly. My parents need to send in a response and until then we do not have any more information.”
For Midway resident John Greaves the cost of decommissioning is higher than the upgrades needed at this time, and that, said Greaves, is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“I’m told that (Greenwood) actually did train two of their staff so they are capable of doing dam inspections (which saves costs for the province),” said Greaves.
“The Ministry… turned that down. They say it will cost a ton of money to bring that dam up to standards, but there’s really been no study to back that up. It’s not a rickety old dam as it’s been reported in some papers. I just think it’s wrong. There’s no reason to get rid of it. It’s going to cost money to get rid of it.”
Greaves added that one of his biggest frustrations since this process started is the lack of dialogue with the people in the community, and that their concerns are not being addressed.
Using an opportunity to meet with provincial ministers during the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference underway this week, Greenwood city councillor Barry Noll raised the Marshall Lake issue in a meeting with Minister Thomson Thursday. The results of that meeting are not yet available.
In the meantime, Stevenson said that the campaign to save this small jewel of a lake in the Boundary has raised awareness and increased the use of the recreation site giving value to their continued opposition. Stay tuned for updates as Stevenson’s new mobile accommodations help him prepare for a Marshall Lake occupation if needed.