Stephen Rigby

Hydro supports camping at Jordan River

Campers are now allowed to stay overnight at popular CRD camping site

Hydro worked with community and CRD

 

Pirjo Raits

Sooke News Mirror

 

What started out as a nightmare for Jordan River residents has turned into a very fair and reasonable solution, and for those who have enjoyed camping at Jordan River there is good news.

While BC Hydro is still encouraging residents of Jordan River to sell their properties in their own time, they have re-assessed the risk and now support overnight camping.

“The residents can sell now to BC Hydro or later, their properties will not be expropriated,” said Mike Hicks, Regional Director for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.

In discussion with the Capital Regional District (CRD) and a third-party risk assessment expert, BC Hydro changed their previous stance on overnight camping at the popular campsite along the shoreline. Hydro is prepared to commit $150,000 towards the cost of an emergency alarm or siren system on the basis that the CRD will pay for its installation and maintenance.

The campsites were opened on Friday, May 15.

“We engaged a world expert on seismic risk from the Netherlands,” said Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro’s Manager for Community Relations for Vancouver Island. “There’s personal risk and there’s public risk,” said Olynyk, “We have the strongest (dam) in the system in the worst location.”

Olynyk said they worked really hard to get camping back at Jordan River and they still have the desire to purchase homes and property.

“We heard what the CRD said and what the public said and we worked with the community,” said Olynyk.

Chris O’Riley, Deputy Chief Executive Officer for BC Hydro, said in a letter to the CRD, that they are continuing their discussion for the purchase of the CRD’s non-waterfront lands in the evacuation area and the acquisition of a restrictive covenant prohibiting future residential development on the waterfront lands within the evacuation area.

“It’s all great news,” said Hicks. “I give full credit to Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett and John Horgan (Leader of the Official Opposition) for helping. The cards were laid out on the table and a responsible decision was made. It’s the way I hoped government would work together.”

Also attending the meeting were BC Hydro President and CEO Jessica McDonald, CRD CAO Bob Lapham, as well as Chris O’Riley and Mike Hicks.

In December 2014, a seismic study was released stating the stability of the Jordan River Diversion Dam was in danger of failure in the event of an extreme earthquake. Hydro stated that the dam is one of the strongest dams in B.C. , and safe in normal circumstances, but  recent studies showed  the hazard was twice as high as previously understood. BC Hydro then sent letters to the residents asking them to sell their property to BC Hydro to alleviate any risk to residents. At the same time the CRD, based on the report,  closed the camping site    to overnight camping.

On May 12, BC Hydro sent letters to residents indicating that they were extending their offer to purchase to whatever date in the future they wished to sell. The properties would be purchased by BC Hydro at the appraised market value ignoring the earthquake risk, and would include moving costs, reasonable legal fees, Property Transfer Tax on replacement property, mortgage pre-payment penalties and any disturbance charges. This is restricted to current property owners.

“For me, this is the best result I’ve ever had, it’s relief for my residents and I’m real happy for them,” said Hicks.

Everyone at the meeting meant business, said Hicks, and Hydro heard the concerns of the residents and those on the lower Island and reacted in a really great way.

“At the end of the day there will be no residences in the way of the water but it will happen slower,” said Hicks.

“Unfortunately it’s still there — the potential for an earthquake is not going to go away,” said Olynyk.