Anyone taking a drive by the Columbia River and up towards the Arrow Lakes should notice the drastically low water levels. These low levels have taken an especially large toll on Scottie’s Marina, perhaps forcing them to cancel their annual fishing derby.
“We lost revenue, we’ve lost business. People can’t access their boats and they’re getting scared,” said manager Debbie Imeson. “Now they’re pulling those boats and don’t want to pay for their stalls.”
The decline in water levels is due to several factors, including the Columbia River Treaty dams, which hold back spring runoff and then allow set amounts of water through BC and into the US.
BC Hydro explained they are releasing the allowed water just as they have every other year, but this year there has been less moisture.
According to Hydro, as of February 3 the Arrow Lakes Reservoir water level was 424.9 metres. It is expected to reach a minimum level in the range of 421.5 to 423.6 metres by February 28 before starting to slowly fill in March.
This is not good news for the marina.
“There was no warning,” Imeson said. “I mean we get the same weekly email that everyone around here receives, saying what they have planned from Friday to Friday. But we didn’t get any warning in January, ‘Hey the water’s going to drop 20 feet.’”
Imeson said there’s nothing they can do now but make sure boats don’t become grounded and damaged. The marina’s space depends on water that is quickly running out.
“Our fishing derby’s coming up on the 21st and we might have to cancel it,” Imeson said.
Fishers have already sent in donations for the 10th annual derby and prizes have been purchased, so it’s sad to think the whole thing may fall through, she said.
Finally, the marina may have to disconnect its floating gas stock which provides gas to all the boats on the lake. Without that, the marina won’t be of much use.
The Imesons aren’t only concerned for their own marina’s well-being but those visiting the area on their own accord.
The biggest concern of all is safety for those unfamiliar with the waters, said Lorne Imeson, who has been working steady to make sure the boats they house are all attended to.
“Say someone comes down at night, hits the sand bar that’s sticking up now. They could get thrown and hurt, maybe killed. They just ran out of water so fast while coming down,” Lorne said.
The Imesons recently spent hundreds of thousands on renovations to the marina, including a new dock.
BC Hydro insists the water levels will stay within their guidelines: “While these levels are unusual relative to recent operations, similar or lower levels occurred prior to and including 2003 and will remain within BC Hydro’s water licence range.”
Furthermore, BC Hydro said they have taken actions to prevent the water from falling to even lower levels.
“For example, we have negotiated the smoothing of Columbia River Treaty water releases across February and March with the US. Additionally, we have been [trying] to further reduce releases from Arrow Lakes Reservoir in February.”