Nalcor Energy is warning people to stay away from a damaged dam in a popular area of the Exploits River, west of Grand Falls-Windsor.

Wilmore Eddy, manager of Exploits Generation and Menihek for Nalcor Energy, says the area is a popular spot for anglers, hikers and mountain bikers at this time of year — as well as spawning salmon.

In an interview with The Central Morning Show on Friday, Eddy described Goodyear's Dam as an ice control structure. Its sole purpose is to create pondage upstream and keep winter ice away from the generator and turbine intakes. 

The dam, which measures about 4.5 metres in height, sustained ice damage over the winter. 

"What we discovered last Friday, we've had a failure in two areas on that dam, representing about 20 per cent of the width of the dam," said Eddy.

The company is assessing a section of the dam that runs between the two damaged areas. 

"If that were to fail, you'd get a short burst of water released downstream, so until we've had a chance to do a good engineering assessment, just as a precaution, we want to keep people away from that area," he said.

Eddy says the damage does not affect power generation at the Grand Falls dam, roughly two kilometres downstream. 

"Where it's an ice control structure, if that dam vanished — if some magician went up and waved a magic wand and the dam vanished — we wouldn't even know about it unless we went up there and had a look, unless it was in the winter months," said Eddy.

"A lot of people think when a dam fails, 'Oh my God, you've got all this water rushing downstream,' but it's not that type of a structure."  

Fish fallout

Eddy says adult salmon that spawned in the area last year, as well as juvenile fish heading to sea for the first time, will have no trouble making it out over the dam.

However, the same can't be said for this season's salmon. 

"The incoming adults that are going to come in to spawn, we won't see them at Goodyear's Dam probably for about a month from now," he said.

Because its two fish ladders are inoperable, Nalcor is exploring alternate methods to pass the fish upstream.

"We certainly recognize the importance of Atlantic salmon on the Exploits River and how much success there's been in the last few years in growing that population on the river, and when those fish get there in a month's time, we'll have some mitigation plan in place to be able to deal with those fish so they'll be able to get upstream," Eddy said.

Nalcor says it intends to have the dam fully repaired by winter. 

With files from David Newell.