The City of Prince George began pumping 15 degrees Celsius water into the Nechako River ice jam Wednesday.
The goal of the plan is to keep a channel open at the confluence of the Nechako River and Fraser River, city utilities manager Marco Fornari said. Allowing water to flow behind the jam should help reduce flooding along the length of the ice.
“The water is coming from [Canfor’s Intercontinental Pulp Mill] at 40 degrees. We’re mixing it at the pumping station here to 15 degrees Celsius,” Marco said.
The 2.7-kilometre pipeline pumps 6,000 gallons (nearly 23,000 L) per minute, Fornari said. The pipeline enters the river at Canfor’s pump house on North Pulp Mill Road.
Currently there is a 7.5 kilometre channel in the ice jam from the old CN Rail bridge to Stevens Drive. Recent cold weather caused a massive expansion of the jam, which now extends 27 kilometres into the Miworth area of the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George.
Mayor Colin Kinsley said there is no guarantees, but there is a solid case to support the plan.
“We did some tepid water testing, about four degrees, using well water. It opened a channel,” Kinsley said. “We’ve got an example of it working. But time will tell. Anything we do is to keep this community safe.”
On Tuesday, the city opted not to renew its contract with Eco Technologies for the use of its Amphibex amphibious excavator.
Dangerous conditions on the river had kept the machine from working on Monday and Tuesday, the last two days of its 10-day contract.
The city was paying $24,000 a day.
The cold weather closed the channel on the Fraser River, meaning there was no place for the broken ice to go once it was broken free, Fornari added.
“He did a really good job of opening up a channel in the Nechako. We will keep open all options as the situation changes,” Fornari said.
The jam and related flood is now in its 53rd day.
To date, the city has spent approximately $4 million responding to the crisis.