The Illecillewaet Dam

Old Illecillewaet Dam a sign of Revelstoke’s energy history

Cathy English looks at the history of the Revelstoke for B.C. Heritage Week 2012.

Editor’s note: The theme for B.C. Heritage Week 2012 (Feb. 20–26) is A Powerful Past, A Sustainable Future. It focuses on the history of power generation on B.C. I asked Cathy English to let us know more about the Illecillewaet Dam, Revelstoke’s first hydroelectric dam.

By Cathy English, Revelstoke Museum & Archives

Energy in B.C. A Powerful Past, A Sustainable Future. This is the theme for Heritage Week in British Columbia from February 20 to 26. Revelstoke is known for the hydroelectric dams here and north at Mica, but electric power generation in Revelstoke goes back much farther.

In September of 1896, William Cowan, local entrepreneur and owner of the Victoria Hotel, submitted an application to incorporate the Revelstoke Water, Light, and Power Company. The company was not legally incorporated until May of 1897, but by that time, Cowan had already arranged for the first waterworks system to be built. Water was brought from Brewery Creek and the system opened in November of 1896.

When William Cowan and investors W.M. Brown, C. Abrahamson and T.E.L. Taylor incorporated the Revelstoke Water, Light and Power Co. in May of 1897, they had a capital of $50,000 and immediately set to work on the construction of a power dam on the Illecillewaet River, two kilometres east of the CPR station. Grading the route of the flume began in August of 1897, with large rock cuts being made to accommodate the flume.

The crest of the dam was 22 feet high from low water, and it was built from bedrock about six feet lower. The width from shore to shore was 65 feet on the crest, and the floodgate was eight feet by ten feet.

The power dam was built at a cost of $45,000, with all private capital, and all local shareholders.

On Feb. 23, 1898, power was turned on and three days later, the plant was in full operation. The Kootenay Mail newspaper of Mar. 12, 1898, reported the reaction of the local citizens:

“The electric lights gave everyone a surprise on Wednesday evening, coming out with unexpected brilliancy on the darkness of the hour. The works are now running well and from this on Revelstoke will have a lighting system much better than many of the towns of the Interior and second to none of them.”

The City of Revelstoke purchased the water and power plants from the Revelstoke Water, Light and Power Co. in 1902, at a cost of $62,500. The plant was upgraded several times over the years.

A rebuilding of the power plant in 1911 cost the local taxpapers more than $90,000, when the project had been budgeted for $32,000.

There were many winters when severe storms crippled the plant and the citizens would be without power for weeks at a time. In the 1920s, a standby diesel plant was built on Fourth Street West, near the Campbell Avenue spur line.

After years of opposition from the local citizens, the Illecillewaet power plant was sold to B.C. Hydro in 1972 for $3,250,000 and it was eventually removed.

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Man presumed dead after boat capsizes south of Revelstoke

One Alberta man made it to shore and was rescued, the other is still missing

Bold youth-led initiatives address local needs

Revelstoke Community Foundation joins national community challenge

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Unsettled skies dominate the week’s forecast

A chance of thunderstorms is in the forecast for much of the Okanagan-Shuswap.

Honouring ancestors through art

Jenn Ashton’s art will be featured at the next exhibit at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre

City hires new by-law officer, in process of recruiting another

Revesltoke city staff currently hiring in several departments

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Two mudslides close Seymour Arm road in North Shuswap, no one injured

Slides hit Seymour Arm Main Forest Service Road halfway between St. Ives and Seymour Arm

“Our community has had its heart broken”: South Okanagan celebrates life of David Kampe

Community and families members who knew Kampe give tearful addresses

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

Lower lake levels could create bumper crop of invasive milfoil

The CSRD board received an update on efforts to suppress the invasive aquatic plant

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Vernon and Sicamous cannabis stores get provincial nod

Spiritleaf in Vernon will be the Okanagan’s first cannabis store.

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Most Read