Dam problem causes water rise, dangerous ice conditions on river

by Isabel Mosseler

On January 17, the WN Police Service issued a caution regarding ice conditions on the upper Sturgeon River above the hydro-electric dam operated by West Nipissing Power Generation. The water above the dam rose as a result of mechanical failures to two of three spillway gates – the chains used to open the gates broke off at the connecting pins and could not be opened, causing a rapid rise in water the water level which broke the ice in some areas.

The sequence of events was called a “freak” occurrence by West Nipissing’s CAO Jay Barbeau. It resulted in rising water levels, affecting the ice conditions on the river. Although the original problems have since been addressed, ice conditions remain altered so that ice thickness, stability and cracks near the shoreline, remain a safety concern. The WNPS reminded users of the waterway to check ice conditions ahead of time, to wear floatation suits and have ice picks on hand, as well as a fully charged cell phone. “When travelling on or over ice, try not to travel alone and always let someone know where you are heading and when you are expected back,” read the release.

​WN Power Generation manager Greg Carello said the matter was resolved within 24 hours. Explaining the cause, Carello said the fluctuating weather and ice build-up around the three gates played a part, while Barbeau also indicated that the pieces which failed may require some modernizing. “It’s definitely a winter condition. The amount of ice that’s accumulated, it’s been a challenging year trying to keep ice off the spill-dam so we can operate the gate… The ice builds up right against the gate and with temperatures going up and down… we went to move a gate and the components broke, and we went to move another one and it broke,” Carello recounted.

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