Diversion project restored flows in Toby Benches lakes and creeks
A long-standing and complex water issue on the Toby Benches northwest of Invermere was solved earlier this year when a $321,040 water diversion project was completed.
Peter Holmes, an Invermere-based habitat biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), seized the initiative to try and solve water flow issues with three lakes and a couple of creeks by raising funds from seven different sources, mostly not-for-profit organizations and Columbia Basin Trust.
Along with a hard-working band of volunteers and key funding help, including from the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund (CVLCF), Holmes completed the Boulder Creek Diversion Project, improving water flow into Lake Enid, Lake Lillian and Wilmer Lake, as well as flows in Boulder Creek, Wilmer Creek and Neave Creek.
“Wilmer Creek was getting pretty low. There wasn’t sufficient flow to maintain the (irrigation) systems,” that have been aiding farmers in the Wilmer/Toby Benches area since the early 20th Century.
Along with staggered flows in Wilmer Creek, Neave Creek, which feeds Lake Lillian, was also sputtering out, with the majority of flow only occurring during spring melts. The impeded water flow also meant Lake Enid, Lake Lillian and Wilmer Lake were suffering.
“Water quality in Lake Lillian has been declining for years,” Holmes pointed out.
Four kilometres of two foot wide high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-density_polyethylene ) was laid last spring, improving water flow for irrigation purposes, drinking water and for fish and wildlife habitat.
“In the end it worked out and water is flowing both ways now,” Holmes said. “Now we are getting a flushing action and I expect water quality will start improving.”
By correcting and improving water flows Boulder and Wilmer Creeks, it allowed Holmes and project members to divert some water into Neave Creek.
The completed project will provide long-term benefits for Wilmer and Lake Lilian area residents, he added.
Holmes praised the Toby Benches and Wilmer residents who volunteered 1,400 hours and helped install the HDPE pipe.
“They worked hard. It was definitely the volunteers that made the project happen,” he said.
He also offered strong credit to the CVLCF, managed by the Kootenay Conservation Program and funded by the Regional District of East Kootenay.
“They helped out big time,” Holmes said. “They provided a significant contribution to the project.”
Funding/project partners included the CVLCF, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Wilmer Waterworks Improvement District, Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club, Toby Benches Society and FLNRO.
Project volunteers included: Volunteers: Norman Hendricks, Gerry Hope, Nolan Rad, Vern Thomas, Scott Wallace, Harvey Doerr, George and Jenny Richardson, Allen Borek, Laurie Mack, Phil Burk, Trevor Kinley, Buzz Harmsworth and Ben Wiegart.
Photos courtesy Peter Holmes and Norm Hendricks