The Strathcona dam. The intake gates

Campers need to be cautious as dam work requires spillway to be used

BC Hydro is getting set to make some upgrades at the Strathcona Dam on the upper Campbell River system.

A $4.8 million project will replace the two water intake gates on the upstream side of the dam that allows for water passage through a pipe within the earthfill dam to the generating station located on the downstream side.

The intake gates being replaced are from the original facility that was constructed in the late 1950s. The intake gates play a key role in maintaining the facility as an isolation point so workers can safely access the water passage area during inspections and maintenance.

“Crews mobilise to the site (this) week and we plan to have the new gates in-service in October,” says BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson. “The Strathcona generating station, with the two turbines and generators, will be out of service from late June to mid-September except for a few days in the first half of August.”

Watson says the water passage through the dam to the generating station is the only means of water conveyance from the Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake to the Lower Campbell Reservoir/McIvor Lake during seasonal low reservoir level elevations, and is required to maintain BC Hydro’s water license compliance.

The good news is with the current water supply year, unlike the record low summer reservoir levels last year, the Upper Campbell Reservoir will be able to supply downstream water flows this summer by passing water through the spillway section of the dam.

“There is a BC Hydro maintained campground, free of charge, located below the Strathcona dam,” says Watson. “With the water to be released down the spillway section of the dam, adjacent to the campsite, the public is advised to be cautious by the channel and the fast flowing water.”

Local subcontractor Brymark Installations Group Inc will be doing much of the project’s water intake gate replacement work.

The road across the dam will remain open during the work, with some single-lane traffic control.

There is the potential for a short-duration road closures to move in equipment.

“In early August, the Lower Campbell Reservoir/McIvor Lake will see some fluctuations in order to increase the reservoir level over about four days, then to be slowly drafted downward by mid-September,” adds Watson. “The Lower Campbell Reservoir does fluctuate from time to time in response to BC Hydro grid operations and market conditions. The reservoir can sometimes trend upward over the week before declining on weekends. This is because sometimes BC Hydro backs off on power generation at the Strathcona facility on weekends.”

Watson says there’s good interface between the project team and other groups within BC Hydro to ensure any future upgrade work, mostly for earthquake withstand reasons, is considered. BC Hydro also has the proposed Strathcona Dam Low Level Outlet Project.

The Strathcona dam is the most upstream of the three dams on the Campbell River system. The dam holds back about 80 per cent of the available system water storage.

The powerhouse has 64 megawatts of capacity, or enough power to supply about 30,000 homes.