B.C. dam projects moving ahead

Biologists install a rotary screw fish trap in the Peace River

Biologists install a rotary screw fish trap in the Peace River

BC Hydro is proceeding with its $800 million refit of the Ruskin dam in the Fraser Valley, and beginning formal environmental review of a new design for the Site C dam in B.C.’s northeast.

The estimated price tag for Site C has jumped from $6.6 billion to $7.9 billion, for the third dam on the Peace River and likely the last big hydro dam to be built in the province. BC Hydro updated a 30-year-old design for Site C to increase its output by 20 per cent to supply 450,000 homes a year.

The 80-year-old Ruskin dam is slated for an major reconstruction to improve earthquake safety and increase output by 10 per cent to supply 33,000 homes.

Coleman sent BC Hydro “back to the drawing board” on Ruskin, seeking ways to ease steep rate increases coming to B.C. power customers to pay for its province-wide surge of upgrades and new construction. In an interview Wednesday, Coleman said he isn’t quite finished his review, and plans to tour the Ruskin site, but it has become clear to him that work should proceed at Ruskin as well as the John Hart dam at Campbell River.

“The challenge with both the Ruskin and John Hart dams is that they have signifiant downstream environmental impacts if they’re not there now, because the salmon spawning area is actually below the height of the dams,” Coleman said. “Plus [at Ruskin] there are industrial users down below, a couple of shake mills and also some residential stuff, so you have to look at the whole thing.”

It is technically possible to lower Hayward Lake near Mission over time and decommission the Ruskin dam, but Coleman said after studying the business case, he agrees with BC Hydro that it should be kept as a steady source of power in the densely populated Lower Mainland.

NDP energy critic John Horgan predicted that the $8 billion estimate for Site C will rise again before the projected completion date of 2020. Because the B.C. Liberal government exempted Site C and other big projects from independent review, it’s not clear if B.C. really needs the power to meet domestic supply, he said.

“I think we’ve got a couple of billion dollars more to go before we’re done, and that’s why we need to have, not politicians making these decisions, not self-appointed bureaucrats, but the independent B.C. Utilities Commission,” Horgan said.

Coleman said he’s satisfied that the Ruskin project can pay for itself in 12 years, and the John Hart upgrade will recover its costs in 10 years. Those estimates include rate hikes that could total 50 per cent in the next five years.

Coleman said Site C will help power a wave of industrial growth in northern B.C., from the 100-year supply of natural gas in the Horn River and Montney shales to at least four and as many as six new mines supplied by a new power line into northwest B.C.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Police seek information after a pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway on March 3.(Google Maps)
Witnesses sought in Langford pedestrian hit and run

Suspect is older man driving four-door, gold sedan

The University of Victoria has said some of its students were impacted by an off-campus exposure to COVID-19 last weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria students impacted by off-campus COVID-19 exposure

UVic has not specified where the exposure occurred

Const. Mat Jones of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit joined a team of Saanich police officers and ICBC representatives cracking down on distracted driving at the McKenzie/Quadra intersection in Saanich on March 3. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
‘Leave the phone alone’: 40 distracted driving tickets issued in two hours at Saanich intersection

Saanich police, CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit crackdown on drivers’ cell-phone use

Cleanup happens after an overnight flood Monday damaged areas of the Oaklands Community Centre. (Facebook/Oaklands Community Association)
Greater Victorians offer flood of support to Oaklands Community Centre

Blown hot water tank Monday night leaves staff cleaning up soggy mess

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read