The Jordan River hydro flume

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

Jordan River hydro flume

The scene here will be unfamiliar to all but a handful of residents. Long ago we received this 1938 photo from Jack Elliott,  an early superintendent of the Jordan River power plant. Recently, it was Hilly Lewis who helped describe the photo which shows the flume built by Vancouver Island Power Company, a subsidiary of BC Electric.

In this view the flume is crossing the Jordan River south of the Diversion Dam, carrying water from Diversion Dam to the Forebay Reservoir preparatory to the water being forced under pressure into the penstocks feeding the powerhouse.

Driving through the community of Jordan River today, it is hard to visualize the enormity of the development which brought water from Jordan Meadows and Bear Creek valley to the power plant. For five decades the plant was the main hydro-electric operation producing and transmitting electricity to serve the needs of Victoria and southern Vancouver Island.

This photo shows the wooden flume resting on bridgework as it crosses the river, supported by concrete bents. The flume was a trough built of Douglas-fir, six feet deep and eight feet across.  This flume, built in 1926, replaced an earlier structure with less capacity. The structure which clung precipitously to the steep hillsides of the Jordan for five and one-quarter miles, had a drop in elevation of twenty feet. It took one and one-quarter hours for the water to journey to the Forebay.

The original two-storey powerhouse, built in 1909, was on the east side of the river, a grand structure in its glory days, three hundred and forty-one feet in length, with a front façade of massive windows. Larry Rumsby’s dad, Frank Rumsby, was an electrician at the plant.

Today, its interior gutted, it stands sad and forlorn, suffering the ravages of time, although in more recent years the structure was used as a value-added milling operation. The flume too, though looking so sprightly in this photo, is long gone, with only glimpses of its remains to be found on the wooded hillsides.

Since the province took over the BC Electric Company in 1962, it has been BC Hydro and Power Authority that has managed operations. A new power plant was built on the west side of the river in 1971, with a production capability far greater than the original system. The new plant now feeds power into a more extensive grid that serves a widespread population.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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