A new tram has been built across the Fraser River for the Kwoiek Creek hydroelectric project to transport materials and workers.

The Fraser River has power potential

Many of its tributaries have been considered for small-scale hydroelectric operations

Kimberly Campbell and Inge Wilson

Contributors

The Fraser River begins its 1,375-kilometre journey as a dripping spring near Mount Robson on the B.C.-Alberta border.

It flows across and down the province before finally emptying into the Pacific Ocean, where it deposits almost 85 billion cubic metres (three trillion cubic feet) of fresh water and over 200 million tons of sediment every year.

The river was a crucial First Nations trade route used for thousands of years to link interior people with those along the coast. The journey of Simon Fraser and the 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush were made possible by its freely flowing waters. It remains an important migratory route for spawning salmon.

Today, we take great pride in the fact that the Fraser is known world-wide as a vast, untamed river. This claim has not always been guaranteed.

During the 1950s, serious thought was given to damming the Fraser. In 1951, The Hope Standard reported that engineers were studying the Fraser River’s power potential above Hope. A dam at Moran, near Lillooet, “would be the biggest single power unit in the world.” It would meet increased electrical demand within British Columbia and create a surplus of power to be sold to the United States. Following the disastrous 1948 flood in the Fraser Valley, it was also to assist with Fraser River flood control.

The Moran Dam was to reach a height of 261 metres and would create a 260-kilometre-long reservoir stretching from just north of Lillooet all the way to Quesnel. Due to its immense size, several important environmentalists, including Roderick Haig-Brown, opposed the project citing the destruction of salmon runs.

It was also predicted that the high silt content of the Fraser River would clog turbines in a dam at Moran after a mere ten years of operation. The projected high maintenance costs of the dam, impact on the environment, and lack of funds all contributed to the defeat of the proposal in the late 1950s.

In 1970, the Moran Dam proposal was revisited when BC Hydro predicted a more than 10 per cent rise in annual provincial power consumption. A 1971 joint report by the federal Department of Fisheries and the International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission stated a dam at Moran would destroy all salmon populations spawning upstream of it and at least 50 per cent of those downstream. The idea was thus defeated for a final time in 1972.

While the Fraser River itself has remained undammed, many of its tributaries have been considered for small-scale hydroelectric operations known as “Run of River” (ROR) projects. These provide power with little to no storage of water, thus limiting the environmental impact. A pipe or tunnel diverts the creek through a turbine, and then returns the water back into the main flow further downstream. This relatively new technology has still raised concerns about reduced river flow volumes and the disturbance of previously pristine areas.

The ROR Scuzzy Creek Power Plant, located near Boston Bar, has been operating since the late 1990s. In June 1997, Global Cogenix Industrial Corporation announced that this six-megawatt plant was operating at optimal rates and that energy production was above the targeted levels. In 2005, a Crown land tenure application was submitted to the B.C. government for the construction of the Scuzzy Creek II Hydroelectric Project. On completion, this second ROR operation was projected to produce an additional 13.5 megawatts of power.

In 2003, BC Hydro announced that their “Green Power Generation Pre Qualified Projects” list included ROR projects on Hope/Fraser Canyon waterways at Berkey Creek, Scuzzy Creek, Hunter Creek, Kookipi Creek, Log Creek, and Spuzzum Creek.

While the number of ROR projects and proposals has increased dramatically since the early 2000s, Scuzzy Creek is the only ROR project in operation in the Hope/Fraser Canyon area even though a total of 70 independent power producers are supplying power to BC Hydro.

One new ROR project currently under construction is 14 kilometres south of Lytton. The Kwoiek Creek hydroelectric project is a joint project between the Kanaka Bar Indian Band and Innergex Renewable Energy. When completed, it will supply power to BC Hydro equivalent to the needs of approximately 20,000 homes.

Throughout BC history, the demand for power and energy has increased exponentially. Our history of energy does indeed boast of a powerful past, and as we move further into the 21st century, many hope for a sustainable power future.

Just Posted

RCMP believe Missing Hope teenager was headed to Chilliwack

Keely Reeze Loewen, 18, last in contact with a family member on June 13

Chilliwack trustees divided on Trans Mountain pipeline route near two schools

School district will pen letter to NEB to ask for re-routing away from schools to be considered

After 30 years, Agassiz’s Miss Marge set to retire from Variety Play

From 1989 to today, Miss Marge has taken generations of kids through the district play program

Crime Stoppers urges Lower Mainland residents to check these 9 safety items every night

Home security tips demonstrated at Cloverdale house on Wednesday

Hope raises almost $700 for Tillicum Centre

By purchasing art on display locally, community raised $690 for the adult centre

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Commercial fishers in B.C. now required to wear life-jackets on deck: WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC reports 24 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry between 2007 and 2018

Beekeeping Rossland boy finds human kindness sweet as honey

Family overwhelmed by kind offerings of strangers

B.C. files second legal challenge against Alberta over turn-off-taps law

B.C. government filed a second lawsuit against Alberta on June 14

Tax credits, penalizing big polluters, key to Conservative climate plan

Canada’s commitment is to cut emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005 before 2030

PHOTOS: Langley-Aldergrove MP Mark Warawa is gone

The Conservative Member of Parliament and long-time community advocate died in hospice this morning

Victoria double murder trial: Blood splatter analyst found no shoe prints on scene

RCMP analyst testifies to smears, fingermarks, ‘swipe and wipe’ patterns around apartment

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

Most Read