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Metro Van seeks public input on Rice Lake dams update

Water main lookouts and benches are being proposed where brush and trees are being cleared. Read on for a dam history lesson.

Popular North Vancouver outdoors destination Rice Lake is losing some trees near two adjacent dam sites, and you can have your say on public features slated to be installed there.

To better facilitate maintenance, vegetation and roughly 200 trees are being cleared around the dams – one at the north and one at the south end of the lake. Clearing work is set to begin early next year.

According to Metro Vancouver Regional District, which owns the dams, a recent review has led to a higher classification under provincial dam safety regulations. The review also identified the need for a new provincial water licence that better reflects Rice Lake’s function as a recreational area.

Metro has revealed initial plans for the to-be-cleared sites, and is asking the public for feedback on the designs via an online survey – which is open until Sept. 7. The landscape design principles are intended to fulfill safety standards, help visitors orient themselves at the lake within the surrounding area, and create new opportunities to spend quality time.

The current north dam concept has a sheltered picnic area, and a lookout area in the shape of a water main pipe with a walk down to water level.

“The lookout becomes a signature sculptural element that acts as an easy-to-read indication of lake level for return visitors,” reads the survey.

The south dam concept features two ring sections of a water main pipe to serve as looking portals on either side of the trail. The land-side ring will have signage with information about Metro Van’s water supply system.

Closer to the water, a broad bench offers a place to rest or watch on as fishers cast into the lake.

The south plan also proposes a topographical “wayfinding” sculpture, with a topographical map to help visitors orient themselves in the area.

A dam Rice Lake history lesson you didn't ask for

Rice Lake is in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. Its two dams have been owned and operated by Metro Van since 1983.

In the early 1900s, a dam was built at the south end to support logging operations. In the summers between 1906 and 1912, loggers from the Hastings Shingle Manufacturing Co. used Rice Lake to stockpile cedar logs from surrounding forestry operations.

Between 1913 and 1928, an improved dam and tunnel were built to connect with City of North Vancouver’s water supply system.

Rice Lake was drained in the late 1940s to facilitate construction of a new water main from the Seymour reservoir, which still runs underneath Rice Lake today. In the late 1950s, the current earth embankment dams were built above the water main.

Rice Lake was refilled and used again by North Vancouver city as a backup reservoir for Lynn Valley’s drinking water supply.

Flooding from heavy rains in 1981 destroyed water intakes on Lynn Creek, reducing the lake’s recharge rate. Soon after, local government ended its use as a supplemental water supply.