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Cheakamus River CDZ remains ‘extreme’ hazard



River below Daisy Lake a no-go for rafting companies, but cars, trains and recreation permitted

The Ministry of the Attorney General has turned down a request to allow local rafting companies to operate on the Cheakamus River below the Daisy Lake Dam, after a new land use study rated the hazard level of the area "extreme."

"We’ve got this incredibly low snowpack this year, which is creating water shortages all over the place, and which is going to have a lot of effect on us this summer," says Mike Sadan, the owner and operator of Wedge Rafting.

"I’ve been pushing for a four-week exemption just to get us through the summer, because as the legislation is written the province has the ability to grant an exemption. But based on the information I received, the Attorney General’s office has reclassified the area’s hazard as extreme, and our request for an exemption was turned down."

The legislation in question is the Order in Council that created the Garibaldi Civil Defense Zone (CDZ) in 1980. According to engineers and geologists, the natural basalt rock Barrier that holds back Garibaldi Lake above Rubble Creek is unstable and could go at any time, either in pieces or all at once.

Because of this, the town of Garibaldi was relocated years ago, and a restriction was placed on the types of activities that could take place in the area.

Commercial activities were restricted because they brought people to the area. Surface water activities like rafting on the Cheakamus River and boating on Daisy Lake were prohibited because the impact of the debris flow from a breach of the barrier would directly affect those areas.

The CDZ runs from Daisy Lake to a point approximately 3 kilometres south of the dam near the salt sheds, and up to the barrier through Rubble Creek Valley.

Rafting companies still used the river through the 1980s and ’90s, but because of the irregular flow from the Daisy Lake Dam, water levels were inconsistent. B.C. Hydro started to release a steadier flow of water for environmental reasons in 1998, and that summer more than 10,000 tourists did the Cheakamus River run through six different rafting companies.

Prior to 1998, the Registrar of Rafting at the Ministry of Environment issued permits to rafting companies, but according to the Ministry of the Attorney General, that was a mistake.

"The legislation has been in place for 20 years, and what happened was, by error, a couple of years ago there were some rafting licenses issued which were withdrawn when the Registrar of Rafting found out that there was a provincial regulation precluding both commercial activities and surface water activities in the designated area," says Wayne Duphinee of the Ministry of the Attorney General, Provincial Emergency Program.