British Columbia

Prince George considers melting ice jam with hot water

An ice jam expert is floating the idea of using hot water to melt the now 6.5-kilometre-long ice jam that's been causing widespread flooding in Prince George, B.C., for a month.

An ice jam expert is floating the idea of using hot water to melt the now 6.5-kilometre-long ice jam that's been causing widespread flooding in Prince George, B.C., for a month.

Crews work to clear flooded roads in Prince George, B.C., where officials said Monday the ice jam on the Nechako River that's causing the soaking is now 6.5 kilometres long. ((Betsy Trumpener/CBC))

The plan does pose some environmental risks but it could work, said Paul Doyle, an engineer who's been giving advice to officials in the northern city.

Doyle's idea is to extend a pipeline from the steam plants at Canfor's two pulp mills on the Fraser River and then use a flexible pipe to direct clean water onto the ice jam.

The hot water would hopefully melt a channel that would allow ice that has formed on the surface of the Nechako River and accumulated in a massive ice jam at the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser rivers to continue to float downstream.

"The best-case scenario is this gets approved, can be done in a pretty short time span, works the way we kind of expect it should … and works its way up through the ice jam pretty fast, creates open water and down goes the water level," he told CBC News Tuesday.

Prince George, B.C., is in its fifth week of dealing with an ice jam that's forcing the Nechako River over its banks. ((Betsy Trumpener/CBC))

Some questions remain about whether it can be done and more consultation is needed, "but this is perhaps the only solution that can satisfy everyone that has a stake in this business," he said.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans local area habitat program manager Nick Leone said the scheme cannot cause undue stress on pink salmon, white sturgeon and bull trout in the area, but the DFO is willing to look at the proposal.

City officials have already considered explosives, icebreakers, dredging and hovercraft to try to break the jam but Mayor Colin Kinsley said early Monday there is no solution at this point.

Doyle said if the ice jam gets bad enough, piping in steamy water may be the only way to melt it.

"This idea is being considered by a technical group of the emergency operations centre team, who are leading the flood response," he said.

The team is discussing the option with the DFO and the provincial Ministry of Environment Fisheries Branch, which regulate discharge into fish-bearing streams, as well with Canfor, Doyle said.

With files from the Canadian Press

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