BC Hydro has a project underway to protect the Airport Slough wetland on the Arrow Lakes Reservoir flats below Nichol Road. The project is being carried out under the Columbia River Water Use Plan to benefit wildlife and wildlife habitat.
BC Hydro Community Liaison Jennifer Walker-Larsen said Columbia River flows, snowmelt, and reservoir operations continue to enlarge a 115 metre-long Y-shaped erosion channel into the flats adjacent to the old Arrowhead highway that runs from the south side of the Illecillewaet River mouth to Machete Island north of the Revelstoke airport. The intent of this project is to see whether the placement of rip-rap rock on the channel bank can prevent the channel from continuing to move towards the existing Airport Slough wetland. Should the channel reach the wetland, the wetland could be drained.
The project has been a challenge because that area of the flats is influenced by both Arrow Lakes Reservoir water levels, discharge flows from the Revelstoke Dam, and drainage flows from the surrounding slopes. Project work had to be timed for the fall when Arrow Lakes Reservoir water level was low and snowmelt was not a factor.
Crews first placed wooden swamp mats from the old Arrowhead Highway to the project site to protect sensitive vegetation from heavy equipment and vehicle traffic. To address Revelstoke Dam discharge flows and keep the erosion channel bank dry to allow the rock rip-rap placement, construction crews then installed a sheet metal barrier across the erosion channel to block water flow up the channel. Earlier this week, crews contoured the bank, lined the bank with a filter fabric, and are currently placing the rip-rap rock. Project construction is expected to be complete by early next week.
The project was recommended by a consultative committee with local representation that evaluated a number of potential wildlife enhancement projects identified by the Columbia River Water Use Plan. Bird monitoring programs that have been conducted each year since 2008 show that the Airport Slough wetland provides important habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds.
Here are a couple of images rom the project: