Ice jams along Nechako River causing concern for Vanderhoof, B.C., residents

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Ice jams along Nechako River causing concern for Vanderhoof, B.C., residents

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Ice jams are threatening to cause flooding in low-lying areas along the Nechako River near Vanderhoof, west of Prince George.

It is believed the ice started jamming on the river in December 2020 but local officials said the conditions worsened this week.

With the ice jams in place, river levels are starting to fluctuate more than a metre up and down overnight.

Mayor Gerry Thiessen told Global News the situation is unpredictable.

“We’ve had to have more water in the river this year than what we were accustomed to,” he said. “Usually we see the spillway at Kenney Dam, which is operated by Rio Tinto, release about 31, maybe 32 cubic metres per second. This year they’re in the range of 84, 85 cubic metres per second.”

Thiessen said that, combined with the ice and the fluctuation above and below freezing temperatures, is making the situation very difficult to manage.

Click to play video: Safety measures taken as ice jam builds in Smithers

Read more: B.C. police arrest break-in suspect on ice floe in Nechako River

The District of Vanderhoof is urging the public to exercise extreme caution around the Nechako River as ice jams can release without any warning.

Thiessen said they would like to see the ice freeze up and still allow a channel of water to go through so it can keep flowing.

They have now asked the province for help and guidance.

“We are concerned,” he said. “We’re not at emergency level yet but we could be. We are concerned about the reservoir level as it’s right close to full — 2,800 feet above sea level is kind of the top of the reservoir that it can go to. We’re right at 2,798 so there’s about two feet of freeboard there but other than that we’re concerned about spring.”

Thiessen added that once the ice clears, local officials will be asking the province and Rio Tinto to release more water into the Nechako River so that they can hopefully avoid the floods they saw in 2007 and 2015.

The floods in 2007 broke a 200-year-old record.


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