Hydro seeking permission to use more water from Williston Reservoir

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The Mayor of Mackenzie claims, BC Hydro is seeking approval for a move which could, “Virtually shut down the town.”

The Prince George Citizen has published a report saying Mayor Pat Crook is raising the alarm over a Hydro proposal to increase the amount of water it can draw out of the Williston Reservoir.

With a population of roughly 3,500 the District of Mackenzie is located at the south end of the reservoir, which currently has a minimum operating level of 2,147 feet above sea level.

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The story says the utility wants to reduce that level by seven feet, but says it will only draw down the reservoir to that level in the event of a drought or other “system events,” and a Hydro spokesman denies the Site-C dam would increase the risk of those events occurring.

In that regard it should be noted that not only does the Williston Reservoir supply water for the WAC Bennett Dam, but also the Peace Canyon Dam, and if and when it’s completed, the Site-C Dam.

Mayor Crook says the forest products industries in the town have “expressed great concern” about the draw down proposal, arguing dropping the current minimum level would result in an insufficient amount of water to adequately supply the communities two saw mills, pulp mill, and bio-energy plant.

There are also concerns it could lead to water-based log delivery systems becoming landlocked, the pulp mill’s effluent discharge breaching provincial regulations, and problems for the town’s effluent discharge system.

In an email response to the Citizen, spokesman Bob Gammer reportedly said, Hydro understands the complex nature of the challenges facing the Mackenzie mills, and two phases of a study into the draw down proposal have been completed with input from district and industry leaders to be included in the findings.

He expects those findings to be forwarded to the comptroller by the end of the year, who will then determine the next steps.

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