Rio Tinto is removing the original spillway bridge at Ootsa Lake, located about 20 metres upstream of the current Skins Lake Spillway and bridge.
The original bridge was built in 1953 to provide a means of crossing the original spillway. Since that time, however, the spillway has been relocated downstream with a new bridge, and the original bridge is no longer needed.
According to a Rio Tinto spokesperson, over time the original bridge would pose a safety risk as it would degrade structurally and could risk collapse.
“This action supports responsible reservoir management,” said the spokesperson.
The contract for removing the bridge has been awarded to Formula Contractors Limited, in partnership with Cheslatta Carrier Nation (CCN). According to Mike Robertson, CCN’s senior policy advisor, Cheslatta has been providing marine and equipment services.
Although Robertson says the old bridge was crumbling and could cause a “catastrophic flood event” if it collapsed, he said Cheslatta did not consider it a safety risk for their members and that this project was Rio Tinto’s idea.
The $2.5 million bridge removal project began on Sept. 8, 2017 and is expected to be completed by the end of October.
The Skins Lake spillway was constructed to release water from the Nechako Reservoir into the Upper Nechako River. Rio Tinto continually monitors reservoir levels and makes ongoing adjustments to water discharge from the reservoir in order to achieve a balance between environmental protection and ensuring there is energy to power their aluminum smelters.