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Making a case for Bear Creek

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— image credit: Public domain image

The city is misguided in its endeavor to launch a feasibility study on removing Star Gulch as the city’s alternate reservoir, says the president of the Rossland Stewardship Society.

Bill Mickelthwaite said not only is the city wrong in looking at the possibility of making the former main water reservoir for the city a recreational lake, they are overlooking the ideal opportunity to create a swimming hole that would better serve the community and tourism.

He resurrected the notion of the Bear Creek area being developed as a swimming hole, and sparing a vital part of the city’s potable drinking water.

City council has directed staff to seek grant funding opportunities to partially pay for a feasibility study (CBT Community Initiative Grant) on Star Gulch—in addition to the $8,000 they have budgeted in 2014.

Mickelthwaite—a former city councilor in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, and a career engineer—said council needed to discuss the feasibility of cutting a portion of its water supply out of the picture before they commissioned a feasibility study.

“You’ve got to be smoking something to deliberately prejudice your water supply,” he said. “Beaches in water supplies are not a good idea.

“Why would we want to spend money out of the current taxpayers’ pocket to enable something that will destroy the lifestyle 10 years down the road?”

In the early 1980s a group called the Rossland Red Mountain Development Society—that included the then ski club, Rosslanders and council—collaborated on the idea to make tourism development work in Rossland.

The group fully developed the idea of putting a swimming lake on the uphill side (northwest side) of the Dunn Avenue causeway.

“There is enough stream flow in that valley to keep that lake fresh,” Mickelthwaite said, “without using any potable (water supply) water.”

The plan was to put a beach on the north side of the lake with washrooms, because it was “stone’s throw” from the Lions campground.

In the planning a Dunn Avenue dam was proposed, using existing rock that needed a sealing coat of clay, piling it on the upstream side and placing rip rap over top of it. A modification of the existing culvert structure was also needed.

The lake would have been shallow, five- to eight-feet deep after it was dug out. The rough cost for the project in the mid 1980s was $500,000.

However, the idea was shelved, even though it was fully developed.

“It then comes down to the question, if you are going to talk about a swimming lake, why not put it there where it is adjacent to the campground, and people in the campground and the community can use it,” said Mickelthwaite, “as opposed to prejudicing the water supply and putting it out in the middle of nowhere, that it is neither approximate to the town or approximate to the ski hill?”

Star Gulch is two kilometres from the city and it is a steeper haul to get to it, whereas the Dunn Avenue area is close by.

Mickelthwaite warned that if Star Gulch was no longer deemed part of the water supply chain, then Topping Creek would automatically be out of action on account of it being unable to feed the Ophir Creek Reservoir since its pick-up point was too low.

The Star Gulch feasibility study is expected to identify issues regarding water safety, environmental implications, health and safety risks, accessibility, parking, landscaping and other relevant considerations.

It will also fully identify challenges, risks and costs associated with converting Star Gulch Reservoir into a recreational lake.

City council has identified in their Strategic Plan to “consider Star Gulch Reservoir as a recreational resource,” and to “actively pursue the transition of the Star Gulch Reservoir into a recreational lake."

On Aug. 3, 2006 council received petitions under the Community Charter (CC} requesting the city establish a local area service to construct a new reservoir to be known as the Ophir Reservoir.

Prior to the completion of the Ophir Reservoir in 2007 the Star Gulch Reservoir was the city's sole water storage facility. The water treatment plant had the capacity to treat the volume supplied from that reservoir.

Public access to the Star Gulch Reservoir had been restricted to protect the water's quality prior to the addition of a water treatment facility to the city's drinking water infrastructure.

But the addition of a water treatment facility reduced the need to maintain a strict prohibition of public access to the reservoir.

Ophir Creek Reservoir use

The purpose of the Ophir Creek reservoir was to meet additional demand arising from new development and provide a secondary source of water for drought and related fire danger issues.

The Ophir Creek project was designed to be an integral part of the city's water supply infrastructure.

Water to the local service area was fully integrated in, and was not segregated from the city's water supply infrastructure.

Star Gulch Reservoir use

Council has the authority to designate either the Ophir Creek or the Star Gulch reservoir as the principle source of supply or the secondary source of water.

It is possible to switch or turn either reservoir off line. Council also has the discretion to regulate public access to either reservoir.

Council will be responsible to ensure that decisions made in terms of reservoir use and public access do not impede the security of the city's water supply or the operation of its infrastructure.

The city must also ensure any secondary use it may authorize for one or both reservoirs, e.g., public access, will not jeopardize the reliability and quality of the city's water supply.

 

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