NEWS

BC Hydro Dam risk leads to Jordan River Campground closure

01/08/2015 03:08 EST | Updated 03/10/2015 05:59 EDT
The Capital Regional District (CRD) has closed the popular Jordan River campground indefinitely, igniting strong reactions from many people across southern Vancouver Island.

The park, a popular spot for surfers, will remain open for day use.

Last month, BC Hydro announced that the Jordan River Dam, on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, has the highest seismic risk in its system.

BC Hydro said a magnitude eight or nine earthquake could rupture the dam and flood the nearby Jordan River campground.

The crown utility has offered to buy out local home owners. It has not offered any compensation to the CRD, which bought the park for $9 million in 2010.

CRD Regional Director Mike Hicks spoke with All Points West host Khalil Akhtar about the campground closure.

"The dream of having a campground and possibly the First Nations participating in it, all that sort of thing, it's over," said Hicks.

"BC Hydro ruined it and they should buy our park back so we can invest somewhere else."

According to Hicks, local First Nations had been in discussions with the CRD to build a cultural interpretation centre for park visitors.

Hicks said that it would not be possible for the CRD to allow campers to stay overnight in light of BC Hydro's announcement.

"This is the CRD, which is a government, and they're just not going to take that risk," said Hicks. "That's how they work."

Gillian Montgomery of the Surfrider Foundation disagreed with the CRD's decision.

"Even though the CRD is looking out for people's safety, I don't think the decision really makes sense."

Montgomery said surfers and other park visitors should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to take the risk of camping overnight.

She believes the Jordan River park is a unique surf spot for the area.

"More of our members are getting older and they're having families," said Montgomery. "That point is so different than any other surf spot on southern Vancouver Island. You can be close to your campsite, you can be close to your car, and you can watch the surfing and you can be part of it."

BC Hydro says it isn't possible to seismically upgrade the Jordan River Dam.

A page on its website says it "is not confident that such upgrades would be technically feasible" and that "BC Hydro is not aware of any dams in the world that are built to withstand the ground motions expected in the Jordan River system as the result of a massive subduction zone earthquake."

The CRD website says the campground is "suspended until further notice," but regional director Mike Hicks thinks it will be closed permanently.

"I personally don't think it's going to be a temporary closure," says Hicks. "I don't see anything changing."

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled CRD Regional Director Mike Hicks: Jordan River campground closure.

MORE:cbcNews