Old BC Hydro dams could be removed

Ruskin Dam in the Fraser Valley created Hayward Lake

Energy Minister Rich Coleman is exploring options to rein in BC Hydro rate increases, including the possibility of decommissioning two of its old dams that need costly reconstruction to withstand an earthquake.

Ruskin Dam in the Fraser Valley and the John Hart Dam on Vancouver Island are being studied to determine if they can be decommissioned, Coleman told Black Press in an interview Thursday.

The 80-year-old Ruskin Dam is slated for an almost complete reconstruction to make it earthquake safe. BC Hydro estimates the project would take six years and cost as much as $850 million, to preserve a dam and upgrade a powerhouse to supply about 33,000 homes.

Coleman said he has sent BC Hydro “back to the drawing board” on Ruskin, after receiving assurances that it is technically possible to lower the level of Hayward Lake over time and decommission the dam.

Coleman is touring the John Hart dam on the Campbell River Friday with BC Hydro engineering staff to see if there are options to decommission it. The John Hart project was completed in 1947 by the BC Power Commission, BC Hydro’s predecessor. It is one of three dams on the Campbell River that supply about 11 per cent of the electricity used on Vancouver Island.

Coleman announced a review of BC Hydro’s upgrade plans Thursday that are projected to push electricity rates up by as much as 50 per cent in the next five years.

BC Hydro is scheduled to start a $930 million project to install new digital “smart meters” in homes and businesses all over the province this summer. It is also in the midst of a major overhaul of its dam and transmission system, and is under instructions from the B.C. government to add new capacity and achieve energy self-sufficiency.

Coleman said the smart meter program is well advanced, and the savings BC Hydro expects from a “smart grid” will pay for the upgrade, so scrapping or delaying that would not give relief from rate increases. Projects to add turbines to the Mica and Revelstoke dams on the Columbia River are also well along and provide needed capacity, he said.

Coleman has instructed the review panel to report back on options by the end of June. The panel members are John Dyble, deputy minister to Premier Christy Clark, deputy finance minister Peter Milburn and Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland, the former comptroller general who is now associate deputy minister of the Environmental Assessment Office.

The panel’s terms of reference say it will “include a financial and administrative review, including consideration to rates structures and may consider corporate governance to the extent it provides opportunities for improved effectiveness and efficiency. The objective of the review is to ensure costs are minimized and the benefits to the province, taxpayers and ratepayers are maximized.

Just Posted

Black ice warning in effect on highways around Revelstoke

Less than 5cm of snow expected in town

The Revelstoke Local Food Initiative has a new coordinator

The Revelstoke Local Food Initiative is announcing the appointment of a new… Continue reading

Columbia Basin Trust approves $870,000 in environmental grants

Local projects will include an environmental education initiative and a bear aware program

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

Grizzlies split weekend effort against Wranglers

Revelstoke remains first in the conference with 55 points

VIDEO: Mt. Begbie to feature experimental brews in new tasting room

Last year Mt. Begbie won brewery of the year at the Canadian Brewing Awards in Ottawa

10 Safeways in Lower Mainland to close, union says

Locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond and Mission slated to shut

“Miraculous that nobody was killed”

Tanker full of aviation fuel involved in Highway 3 crash

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alerts customers who may be affected by latest data breach

Federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner said it had been notified

Flying squirrel touches down inside Salmon Arm home

Rodent jumps around residence before homeowers encourage it back outdoors

‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

People living in northern communities share how they learned about Tuesday’s tsunami warning

Most Read