Six warning alarms to be installed below Cleveland Dam after sudden water release that killed two

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      Metro Vancouver is installing six alarms along North Vancouver's Capilano River below the Cleveland Dam after last October's deadly water release that resulted in the deaths of two men.

      In an April 22 release, the municipal federation announced that installation of the alarms—which will be mounted on utility poles and utilize both audible and visual signals—would commence on April 26.

      On October 1, 2020, a sudden release of water from the Cleveland Dam's spillway gate sent a four-metre surge of water down the Capilano River, a popular angling site for locals.

      About a dozen fishers were caught in the maelstrom, most of whom made their way to safety by themselves or were stranded and rescued with the help of Disrict of North Vancouver emergency-services crews. Two people were swept away, one of whom was later found dead; the other person, the son of the deceased, has not been recovered.

      The torrent lasted only a few minutes.

      A week after the tragedy, Metro Vancouver commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny said in a statement regarding the water surge that "the clearest contributing factor was human error related to programming of the control system for the spillway gate at the Cleveland Dam. Metro Vancouver takes responsibility for this mistake and our deepest sympathies go out to those affected by the tragic loss of life.”

      On October 30, 2020, a Metro Vancouver news release referenced the earlier Dobrovolny statement and said that "three employees have been dismissed", without providing further details.

      The Cleveland Dam, built in 1954, holds back the artificial 270-hectare Capilano Lake, which supplies about one-third of Metro Vancouver's drinking water. Below the dam is the Capilano River Regional Park, which takes in most of the upstream territory of the Capilano River, which starts below the dam's spillway. A federal fish hatchery that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually is on the river's eastern bank just below the dam.

      In today's bulletin, Dobrovolny hinted that there might be further additions to the warning system. “We are committed to enhancing safety for river users and the public, and have been carefully examining solutions to determine the best path forward,” Dobrovolny said. “Installing these alarms is just the beginning. Over the coming months we will be listening to and incorporating feedback to help inform us on the development of long-term enhancements to our public warning system.”

      Dobrovolny said there will be other considerations guiding the warning-system installation. "“We are also conducting environmental and social impact assessments to ensure that we appropriately consider how the alarm system could affect nearby residents, as well as birds and other wildlife.”

      About a week after the deadly water surge, seven men had to be rescued by the District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and the West Vancouver Fire Department after becoming stranded on a Capilano River sandbar by rising water.

      In the most recent release, Metro Vancouver said the public warning system will be implemented in two steps:

      "Phase 1 will include the installation of six public alarms, implementation of a text notification system, and installation of additional signage throughout the park. It will also include public engagement from May 13 to July 30 to better understand opportunities and hear how these interim measures are working so that they can be adjusted as part of the design of a long-term system.

      "Phase 2, which will take place in early 2022, will share the recommended design for long-term public warning system enhancements for further comment from the community before the system is installed."

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