Ootsa Lake residents express concern over birds’ nests

Ministry of forests officials say there is nothing to worry about.

Multiple reports from residents who live out near Ootsa Lake say high water levels in the lake are threatening ospreys and seagulls nests.

Despite the concerns from residents, officials for the ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations, as well as officials for Rio Tinto Alcan, the company that manages the Nechako reservoir which Ootsa Lake is a part of, remain unconcerned.

“High water levels may impact one or two low-lying nests, but overall the impact on osprey nests should be minimal,” said Greig Bethel, Public Affairs Officer for the ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations. “The gulls in the area (mew/bonaparte gulls) don’t use snags for nesting, so there are no concerns for them.”

The high water levels in the Nechako reservoir are the result of normal to above-normal snowpacks in the region, in combination with rainfall that resulted in very high inflows.

According to Claudine Gagnon, Spokesperson for Rio Tinto Alcan, the Nechako reservoir received above normal inflows all winter.

“In addition to extreme levels of precipitation from rain and late snowfalls, an early spring runoff brought the reservoir level up quickly,” she explained.

The Nechako reservoir level allowance is 2800 feet. Currently, the reservoir is 14 feet of water above the maximum allowance. Rio Tinto Alcan is managing the reservoir through releases at Skins Lake spillway to minimize downstream flooding on the Nechako River.

“The reservoir is currently in what is called a surcharge where we are holding back,” explained Gagnon.

However, according to Bethel, water levels at the reservoir are starting to decline.

“The ministry is aware that the water level in the [Nechako] reservoir was elevated and at full pool [normal maximum operating level], but it appears that the reservoir started to decline over the weekend,” he said. “Water levels are expected to continue to drop.”

Gagnon agreed by saying that if the weather pattern continues as it has been the past couple weeks, the reservoir level will back within the 2800 feet level very soon.

Rio Tinto Alcan held a meeting to clarify information on reservoir levels and address any questions the public might have had on June 18, 2015, at the Wisteria Church on the Ootsa Nadina Road.