Old BC Hydro dams could be removed

Ruskin Dam in the Fraser Valley created Hayward Lake

Ruskin Dam in the Fraser Valley created Hayward Lake

Energy Minister Rich Coleman is exploring options to rein in BC Hydro rate increases, including the possibility of decommissioning two of its old dams that need costly reconstruction to withstand an earthquake.

Ruskin Dam in the Fraser Valley and the John Hart Dam on Vancouver Island are being studied to determine if they can be decommissioned, Coleman told Black Press in an interview Thursday.

The 80-year-old Ruskin Dam is slated for an almost complete reconstruction to make it earthquake safe. BC Hydro estimates the project would take six years and cost as much as $850 million, to preserve a dam and upgrade a powerhouse to supply about 33,000 homes.

Coleman said he has sent BC Hydro “back to the drawing board” on Ruskin, after receiving assurances that it is technically possible to lower the level of Hayward Lake over time and decommission the dam.

Coleman is touring the John Hart dam on the Campbell River Friday with BC Hydro engineering staff to see if there are options to decommission it. The John Hart project was completed in 1947 by the BC Power Commission, BC Hydro’s predecessor. It is one of three dams on the Campbell River that supply about 11 per cent of the electricity used on Vancouver Island.

Coleman announced a review of BC Hydro’s upgrade plans Thursday that are projected to push electricity rates up by as much as 50 per cent in the next five years.

BC Hydro is scheduled to start a $930 million project to install new digital “smart meters” in homes and businesses all over the province this summer. It is also in the midst of a major overhaul of its dam and transmission system, and is under instructions from the B.C. government to add new capacity and achieve energy self-sufficiency.

Coleman said the smart meter program is well advanced, and the savings BC Hydro expects from a “smart grid” will pay for the upgrade, so scrapping or delaying that would not give relief from rate increases. Projects to add turbines to the Mica and Revelstoke dams on the Columbia River are also well along and provide needed capacity, he said.

Coleman has instructed the review panel to report back on options by the end of June. The panel members are John Dyble, deputy minister to Premier Christy Clark, deputy finance minister Peter Milburn and Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland, the former comptroller general who is now associate deputy minister of the Environmental Assessment Office.

The panel’s terms of reference say it will “include a financial and administrative review, including consideration to rates structures and may consider corporate governance to the extent it provides opportunities for improved effectiveness and efficiency. The objective of the review is to ensure costs are minimized and the benefits to the province, taxpayers and ratepayers are maximized.

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

Just Posted

Community members Ed Hutchinson, left, Dave Noren, and Pat Graham, president of The Ladies Guild, stand before the new book house outside the Church of the Advent in Colwood. The tiny library was built as a result of the annual Church of the Advent book sale being cancelled due to COVID-19. (Submitted/Joan Hoffman)
Colwood church builds little library

Church of Advent annual book sale cancelled due to health restrictions

To each their own pipe. The new sewer main during staging in James Bay before it was installed in 2018, to convey waste to the McLoughlin Point treatment facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
‘End in sight,’ for Victoria’s annual sewage overflows

Wastewater projects underway should end sewage overflows

(Courtesy Very Good Butchers)
Very Good Butchers brand adds cheese to its platter

The Cultured Nut products to be rebranded under Very Good Cheese banner

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

June Saxe, 2, enjoys the sunny shoreline at Whiffin Spit with her dad on March 5. The family had come out from Victoria for a day in the sunshine. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Warm weather brings Sooke’s Whiffin Spit to life

Visitors, locals enjoy warm weather at coastal viewpoint

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read