BC Hydro has just received a key regulatory approval from the BC Utilities Commission on its application to decommission and remove the Salmon River diversion dam.
The June 16 BCUC decision was just in time given BC Hydro’s goal of removing the dam this summer and within the short fisheries instream work window, according to BC Hydro.
“We are pleased with the BC Utilities Commission decision as this will allow us to proceed with removing the Salmon River diversion dam this summer,” BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson said in a press release. “Removing the dam is considered the best long-term solution to improve fish passage on the Salmon River.”
Decommissioning a dam requires significant planning and consultation with First Nations, agencies and stakeholders, in addition to receiving the necessary regulatory approvals. Hydro needed BCUC approval before any permanent work could start. They have also just received project approval from the Comptroller of Water Rights.
“We really appreciate all the time and effort First Nations, government agencies and the wider community have put into the fish passage issue since 2007,” said Watson. “All that work and energy has paid off. We had 19 community letters of support for our BCUC application, so there should be a lot of happy people in the region and the benefits this decision may have for fish.”
The removal of the dam will benefit steelhead, coho and chinook.
“To be ready to start the decommissioning work on July 1, we have been diligently working on the design and construction plans and procurement in tandem with the BCUC process,” said Watson. “We have been doing some site preparation work during the past couple of months so we can hit the ground running. And now that we have the regulatory approvals in place, this week we will look to secure the project construction contract.”
Through the John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project, BC Hydro committed to work with Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai First Nations on a fish passage solution at the site. Wei Wai Kum, We Wai Kai and K’omoks First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, and the Sayward Fish and Game Club all worked with BC Hydro on developing better upstream and downstream fish passage at the facility.
Located between Campbell River and Sayward, the Salmon River Diversion is used to divert water from the Salmon River through a three kilometre canal system into Brewster Lake and eventually into the Lower Campbell Reservoir for power generation. The Salmon River Diversion Dam is a rock fill timber crib dam that is eight metres high. The facility has been an obstacle and at times a barrier to steelhead and salmon migration as they try to access the 40-kilometres of ideal fish habitat upstream of the dam.