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It’s dam time in Prince Rupert with Woodworth Lake water conversion

City has reverted to primary water supply after 7 years, yellow water is not yet crystal clear
A mostly completed Woodworth Dam site on Oct. 17. The reservoir behind the dam structure needed to fill for water to flow over the dam before the city water supply could be reinstated to its primary source, which has now occurred, the City of Prince Rupert announced on Feb. 8. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

For the first time in seven years, residents in Prince Rupert will be able to drink water once again from Woodworth Lake, the City of Prince Rupert announced on Feb. 8.

With the completion of the new Woodworth Dam in October 2022, water levels have now risen enough to return the supply to the primary source instead of Shawatlans Lake from where it has been pumped since 2016.

“This final return of the city to our original water supply marks the end of one of the biggest infrastructure endeavours the city has seen in recent history,” Herb Pond, mayor of Prince Rupert said. “This project was no small undertaking, and it’s a credit to the former mayor and council, as well as staff, that we were able to see it through, despite challenges along the way.”

The dam project was partly funded by the Canadian Water and Wastewater Fund (CWWF), with the Federal government dedicating $4,295,000, the Province $2,834,700, and the remainder covered by the city through dividends from Prince Rupert Legacy Inc. and borrowing.

Richard Pucci, director of operations and intergovernmental affairs for the city told The Northern View at the dam opening in October the total cost of the project exceeds $23 million.

While the dam project is now complete, the city wants residents to understand the switchover does not mean crystal-clear water just yet. As the lake levels rise in height, so does new sediment into the lake, which affects turbidity and colour.

It may be months yet until the water is cleaner and clearer.

“Although, overall, things are trending positively, we do not anticipate a drastic change in the water quality with the switch, as the wetted parameter of the Woodworth reservoir basin has increased, and so has the influx of sediments because of it,” Pucci explained.

“Due to these changes, the community may not see the benefits of cleaner, clearer water until into the summer when the weather calms and the reservoir settles out,” he said.

The dam project saw several delays along the way, with supply chain issues stemming from the global pandemic and two major landslides that blocked the access for construction. After the structure was completed in the autumn city contractors faced delays in obtaining material required to reconnect the water supply, and additional work was needed to prepare the dormant supply for service.

“The City is still in the engineering phase of the next phase of our water infrastructure replacement efforts – a water treatment facility – and is currently exploring our options for operating models,” a press release states.”Updates will be provided to the community regarding the treatment phase of our water infrastructure as they are available.”

In October, previous city Mayor Lee Brain told The Northern View multiple contracts have already been awarded for the third stage and the filtration which is already in the engineering phase. The project is anticipated to be completed in 2024, he said.

“This is a huge day for this community,” he said at the opening of the dam structure.

“Once the entire supply side is secured in 2024, then we need to secure the distribution side, which is another $90 million to $100 million project which we are lobbying the Feds to get an injection,” he said, referring to the 103-year-old pipes that need replacing throughout the city.

“The Government of Canada is proud to see the completion of work on the Woodworth Dam,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities.

“This has been a major undertaking for the city, helping them to improve their water quality and return to their primary water source. We will continue to work with our partners to build more sustainable, resilient, and vibrant communities across British Columbia.”

“I want to congratulate the City of Prince Rupert on one of its largest-ever infrastructure projects. It will ensure access for the community to its primary water source for many years to come,” Anne Kang, minister of municipal affairs said. “Upgrading and replacing aging infrastructure adds stability to our communities, helps enhance quality of life and I look forward to the second phase of this project.”

READ MORE: Prince Rupert celebrates project completion of Woodworth Dam

READ MORE: $16.5M Woodworth Dam replacement project moves forward

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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