A proposed plan for construction of a sixth turbine on the Revelstoke Dam has completed its environmental review and is waiting on ministry approval.
It’s called Revelstoke 6 project and involves the installation of a sixth 500 megawatt generating unit in an empty bay on Revelstoke Dam and construction of a new series capacitor station 19 km west of Summerland.
BC Hydro says they expect the project to create temporary employment for over 100 people over 3.5 years and generate local spending of roughly $45 million for goods, materials and services. Construction is expected to cost up to $582 million.
Although the extra power generated will most likely not be needed until 2026, BC Hydro says it’s better to start sooner than later.
“We are pursuing regulatory approvals now in case we need the capacity sooner,” wrote Jen Walker-Larsen, stakeholder engagement advisor at BC Hydro, in an email.
“It is difficult to predict the future and projects like this involve considerable lead time so we must plan ahead and put contingencies in place in case the future unfolds differently than we expect.”
Currently the Revelstoke Dam produces 2,480 MW. With Revelstoke 6 project, the dam would provide enough additional power to approximately 40,000 homes. BC Hydro says with the six units, Revelstoke dam would be the highest capacity and most powerful dam in B.C.
At the moment, the most powerful dam in B.C. is W.A.C. Bennett in northern B.C., at 2,917 MW.
Roughly, 87 per cent of B.C’s electricity is generated by hydro power. According to Canadian Mining & Energy, the most powerful dam in Canada, which produces roughly 7,722 MW, is Centrale Robert-Bourassa in James Bay, Quebec.
The environment assessment for Revelstoke 6 project was suspended in Oct. 2017 to allow more time to consult with Indigenous Peoples.
“We worked closely with Ktunaxa, Okanagan Nation, and Secwepemc,” wrote Walker-Larsen.
The environmental assessment application was resumed in April.
The City of Revelstoke submitted a list of concerns in Aug. 2017. They included the potential impact on the city’s limited supply of housing, drawing away local construction workers from other projects in the city, erosion along Third Street near Mountain View Elementary, increased traffic and strain on the RCMP due to the influx of workers.
According to documents supplied by the B.C. Government, it’s expected that construction will cause less than three per cent increase in population locally, which is far below seasonal fluctuations. BC Hydro has also proposed to establish a Community Impact Monitoring Committee during the project to address any unanticipated socio-economic impacts attributed to Revelstoke 6 project.
The documents also noted that Westside Road, which leads to Revelstoke Dam will only be closed occasionally for transportation of materials, such as an extremely large turbine.
BC Hydro expects the project will have little impact on traffic and tourism. Regardless, they will monitor traffic and contribute towards necessary road repairs.
In terms of erosion, B.C. Hydro says the project will only cause “incremental changes to Revelstoke Reservoir and downstream Columbia River Flows.”
“When compared to the operation with five generating units, Revelstoke Dam with six generating units would only cause small changes to the timing and amount of water level fluctuation within the current 1.5 metre operating range of Revelstoke Reservoir under normal conditions,” wrote Walker-Larsen.
In 2013, BC Hydro commissioned an independent assessment of erosion along Third Street and concluded that current erosion is not caused by fluctuating river levels.
Walker-Larsen did note that there will be an increase of higher flows, which are higher than 60,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), from 3 per cent to 11 per cent yearly.
B.C Hydro also says Revelstoke 6 project will have little impact on fish habitat.
The project has now moved onto the Province for a decision on whether or not to issue an environmental assessment certificate. A final decision is expected Oct. 15.