The failure of the 80 year-old dam in Oliver, B.C. has put into question the safety of dams like those in the Peace River area.
A list of dams and their classifications is available on the Ministry of the Environment website.
Both the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and the Peace Canyon Dam are listed as having a “very high” consequence classification.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Environment, the classification is given if there are numerous consequences associated with a dam if it fails. The risks could include over 100 deaths and economic losses of over $100 million. The failure could also result in significant environmental and cultural losses, including harm to endangered species or culturally significant areas.
According to David Currie, public affairs officer for the Ministry, dams that have a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ classification are checked every five years by the Ministry. However, the companies who operate dams are required to conduct an annual inspection and a monthly surveillance of their dams.
The Testalinden Creek dam, which failed on June 13, 2010, was not listed on the B.C. Dams and Public Safety list for having a “high” or “very high” consequence classification.
The W.A.C. Bennett Dam is under 50 years-old and the Peace Canyon Dam is approximately 30 years-old.
For further information regarding dam safety in British Columbia, click here.