BC Hydro put its Salmon River project on hold – weeks before it was about to start – pending a review that could result in it being downscaled or even decommissioned.
After crunching the numbers on the final cost of the three-phase project that was to start this year and be complete in 2018, BC Hydro has determined the project cost to be too high when compared to the overall value of the facility in what it provides for hydroelectric power on the Campbell River system.
“People in the community and our staff have spent a lot of time on this project the last number of years to determine the best way to upgrade the facility for improved fish passage and the dam safety upgrades,” says BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson. “However, after a full review in April, the cost of this proposed project is too high for us to proceed within the context of how much water we may divert into the Campbell River system on an annual basis. We really appreciate all the time and effort First Nations, government agencies and the wider community have put into this project. We apologise that we are putting the project on hold at this time when work was about to begin in June. People were looking forward to the work starting. It was a hard decision for us to make, though one we believe to be the right one.”
Watson said it was important that BC Hydro put the project on hold for a period of time so that the right decision for this facility can be made in the interests of the province, BC Hydro, their ratepayers, the environment, First Nations, stakeholders and the community.
BC Hydro has been notifying First Nations, fish agencies and stakeholders like the Campbell River Salmon Foundation of the decision over the past week.
In 2012, BC Hydro committed to adult fish passage improvements at the Salmon River diversion facility and has been working with First Nations and government agencies to develop long-term solutions.
A capital project was initiated in 2014/2015 to deal with improved upstream fish passage, improved out-migration of fish past the dam, and dam and canal safety upgrades for the 58-year-old facility. When all three components of the project were fully assigned a cost, it proved to be expensive.
“It’s a good thing we combined all the work to get a full picture,” says Watson.
“For what’s next, likely through this year, we will work with First Nations and government fish agencies to determine if the project can proceed at a lower cost or taking the facility out of service and decommissioning it. This is the magnitude of what we are considering. We are leaning to facility decommissioning as the likely option to benefit fish and fish passage up the Salmon River watershed, and for the broader benefit to the environment.
“Removing the facility would not be a simple process and will take some time for further community consultation and ultimately require a submission to the BC Utilities Commission for approval. That process can take a few years before any site work may happen.”
Watson says the Salmon River diversion will likely continue to operate as business as usual until a final outcome is determined.
Located between Campbell River and Sayward, the Salmon River Diversion is used to divert water from the Salmon River, when there is enough water to do so, through a three-kilometre canal system into Brewster Lake and eventually into the Lower Campbell Reservoir for power generation through the Ladore and John Hart generating stations. Water from the diversion also provides water supply for other Campbell River water use interests such as reservoir recreation and fish habitat flows.