Some of B.C.'s dams are dangerous, auditor general's report suggests
The British Columbia government has not effectively overseen the safety of the 1,900 dams it regulates, says the auditor general.
Michael Pickup said the Ministry of Forests, Land, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has not adequately verified or enforced dam owners' compliance with key safety requirements.
“So I'm trying to balance making sure that it's clear to people that we're not suggesting, you know, dams are unsafe,” Pickup told a news conference Tuesday.
“But at the same time we are suggesting, and indicating, that by concluding they're not effectively running their program and doing what they said they would do, the risk has increased related to dam safety and public safety.”
The report said officers with the ministry found that new landowners sometimes didn't know their property had a dam on it for a year or more after becoming the owners when they received a bill for the water licence. Dams are not on the land title, and smaller dams can look like a natural body of water, it added.
While the owners of the dams are responsible for their safety, the ministry has a mandate to see that they comply with provincial regulations, it said.
“Although the ministry makes information available to all dam owners and does outreach to owners of higher-consequence dams, officers often find that dam owners - especially owners of low-consequence dams - don't fully understand their regulatory responsibilities,” said the report released Tuesday.
“A reason for this lack of understanding is that safety training is voluntary. Anyone can own a dam if they buy land with a dam on it.”
The audit period was from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2020, and didn't include dams that are being built, like Site C, a megaproject crossing the Peace River just west of Fort St. John.
Dams that hold back water offer significant benefits, such as electricity, irrigation, flood control, wildlife habitat and recreation, said the report. But dams must be properly maintained to minimize their risk of failing, it added.
Failures can be caused by a single catastrophic event, such as an earthquake, or, more often, by a series of factors or events, it said.
For about 1,000 of the 1,900 dams, it said a failure could kill people and damage the environment and property. The rest of the dams could end up damaging the owner's property, the report said.
Since the early 1900s, there have been two recorded fatalities in B.C. from structural dam failures, one in 1912 and the other in 1948, it noted.
The auditor general also found that the ministry did not have a complete inventory of dams, and the information on the ones it regulates was not always complete or accurate because the database was introduced in 2010 and has expanded to include more material.
But officers with the ministry have not prioritized updating the database records as part of their already heavy workloads, the report said. They also feel the database doesn't meet their workflow needs and is inefficient to use, it said.
Four out of 10 officers said there was a backlog in the average time between reports being submitted and the ministry accepting them, which was about 20 months, although some had taken eight years.
“The backlog was a result of officer workload,” it said.
“The officers told us their schedules rarely allowed for the uninterrupted stretch of time they needed to review these complex technical reports.”
The auditor general made nine recommendations, including improving processes to verify compliance, all of which have been accepted by the ministry. Pickup said the response from the government did not include details in terms of actions and a timeline but it did agree with all the recommendations.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2021.
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The Canadian government has quietly lifted its advisory against non-essential international travel, marking the first time since March 2020 that the notice has been lifted. 'Be aware that although you are better protected against serious illness if you are vaccinated, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19,' the updated advisory states.
Search resumes for potential unmarked graves outside former hospital that treated Indigenous patients
A search prompted by ground-penetrating radar is resuming again on land in Edmonton that houses a former hospital where Indigenous patients suffered abuse.
A prop firearm discharged by veteran actor Alec Baldwin, who is producing and starring in a Western movie, killed his director of photography and injured the director Thursday at the movie set outside Santa Fe, authorities said.
Edward Rogers is out as board chair of Rogers Communications Inc., a move that comes as the latest development in a boardroom drama that has prompted the departure of a senior executive and the launch of an executive oversight committee.
Queen Elizabeth II spent a night in a hospital for checks this week after cancelling an official trip to Northern Ireland on medical advice, Buckingham Palace said Thursday. The palace said the 95-year-old monarch went to the private King Edward VII's Hospital in London on Wednesday for 'preliminary investigations.'
Canadian propane prices are skyrocketing alongside natural gas due, in large part, to growing demand from overseas markets, a price surge analysts say will have a big impact on rural Canadians this winter.
The FBI's Denver office said Thursday that remains found a day earlier in a Florida nature reserve are those of Brian Laundrie, who disappeared last month just days after his fiance Gabby Petito was reported missing.
It appears one B.C. hatchery program is off to a promising start, by the size of the Chinook salmon they’ve been pulling in from the Wannock River near Bella Bella.
The federal government has announced a suite of changes to the popular income and business support programs put in place during the pandemic and set to expire on Saturday. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland reminded Canadians on Thursday that the measures were always intended to be 'temporary.'
Health officials identified 61 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Thursday as hundreds of coronavirus cases remain active in the region.
An expected 'cyclone bomb' has emergency responders bracing for an increase in activity as the storm moves onto Vancouver Island Thursday and into the weekend.
A whale-watching guide on Vancouver Island has been fined thousands of dollars for getting too close to a pod of orcas.
Coun. Sean Chu defies calls to step down despite outrage over admitted sexual contact with teenage girl
Embattled Calgary Coun. Sean Chu said during a press conference on Thursday that he will not resign.
Election officials have denied four separate requests for recounts for Monday's civic election, including in Ward 4, the race that re-elected Coun. Sean Chu.
The man wanted in the accused homicide of Calgary's John Smith is now in police custody.
Alberta county star Corb Lund is not backing down on his fight against coal mining in Alberta’s eastern slopes - as he enlisted some help in a new protest video.
Alberta reported 770 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday as pressure on the health care system starts to ease.
A 5.0 magnitude earthquake shook central Alberta Wednesday night.
Capacity limits on restaurants and gyms in Ontario could be lifted next Monday, as the Ford government considers new measures for establishments that require proof of vaccination certificates, sources say.
Nephew of former 'Dragons' Den' star who 'inadvertently' shot and killed best friend pleads guilty to manslaughter
A Caledon man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter after he accidentally shot and killed his best friend with a machine gun at his uncle’s home in 2018.
Prayers and pain at funeral for 17-year-old girl killed crossing intersection near Scarborough school
Her death is being described as an excruciating loss. The emotion during the service, held at the Islamic Research Centre of Canada, was overwhelming and raw.
A doctor and McGill professor stopped in a no-parking zone in Mount-Royal on Tuesday. It ended with police entering his home, handcuffing him and dragging him out the door in front of his daughters, he says.
An Indigenous land acknowledgement from the Montreal Canadiens last week sent shockwaves through Quebec, with bipartisan backlash from politicians who called the Habs' statement false.
Local and provincial police officers recovered four guns during a raid in a residence in Ville St-Laurent, a borough in northern Montreal.
A doctor from Ste. Anne Manitoba is now facing 22 counts of sexual assault after police laid additional charges.
The number of direct-care workers in the province who are on unpaid leave continues to grow.
Following a manhunt that spanned two days, Manitoba RCMP arrested a suspect deemed a high risk to the general public.
On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan government released its COVID-19 data and modelling which projects what the coming weeks and months could look like in a province that currently has the highest coronavirus-related death rate in Canada.
Indoor gathering limits for private and public events must be implemented immediately as a public health order, according to the Saskatchewan Medical Association.
Two more Saskatchewan residents have died of COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths related to the virus to 800.
The Saskatchewan government released a statement Thursday morning saying social media posts about ICU patient transfers should be “disregarded” following immense confusion among doctors and officials over planned ICU patient transfers to Ontario.
Regina police have launched an investigation into the city’s 11th homicide of 2021.
The Saskatchewan government has confirmed that three additional ICU patients will be transferred to Ontario over the next three days, bringing the number of patients sent out of province to nine.
N.B. reports 2 more deaths related to COVID-19 as death toll surpasses 100; extends circuit-breaker for 7 days
Two more New Brunswickers have died as a result of COVID-19, raising the death toll in the province to 101 since the pandemic began. The province also extended circuit breaker measures for seven days.
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 19 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 recoveries on Thursday, as the number of active cases in the province drops to 163.
Two Nova Scotia students who spent eight months fighting to be repaid rent after they departed their mouse-infested apartment say their case emphasizes the need for legal reforms to protect tenants.
Sarnia, Ont.’s mayor is calling on the federal government to remove costly COVID-19 testing as a requirement for Canadians returning to Canada from the United States.
After a nearly two days of delays, Const. Stephen Williams tendered his resignation to the London Police Service effective Nov. 22.
A serious two-vehicle collision closed Highbury Avenue near Manning Drive on Thursday afternoon.
Highway 11 has reopened after a diesel spill that closed the highway and forced evacuations
It was Child Care Worker and Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day on Thursday, a day to recognize early child care professionals who work with young children on a daily basis.
Jaymie-Lyne Hancock lost her brother DJ seven years ago in a crash involving a drunk driver.
Cambridge woman outraged after MPP Randy Hillier falsely claims her sister died due to COVID-19 vaccine
A Cambridge woman is outraged after MPP Randy Hillier falsely claimed her sister died as a result of a COVID-19 vaccine.
A 62-year-old St. Marys resident has been charged with first degree murder in connection with the death of a baby more than 35 years ago.
A major road connecting Kitchener and Cambridge has reopened following a fatal crash early Thursday morning.