The Wahleach Hydro-Electric Plant was officially opened on Dec. 4

The Wahleach Hydro-Electric Plant was officially opened on Dec. 4

Wachleach Power Project electrifies engineering

Lake recreation site is accessible from Laidlaw near Hope

Kimberly Campbell and Inge Wilson

Contributors

When driving between Hope and Bridal Falls on the Trans-Canada Highway, many curious travellers have wondered what exactly that large, fortress-like building along the roadway is. The building, a BC Hydro Powerhouse, generates hydro-electric power with water from Jones (also known as Wahleach) Lake.

After the Second World War, the BC Electric Company (now BC Hydro) vastly increased its generating capacity in order to meet increased domestic and industrial demands for electricity. In November 1950, B.C.E president, A.E. Grauer, announced a $10-million hydro-electric project at Jones Lake that would provide an additional 80,000 horsepower to the B.C.E. grid – the energy needed to light one million 60 watt lamps!

The high altitude, glacier-fed lake provided the ideal spot for a reservoir. Located at approximately 2,106 feet (642 meters) above sea level, Jones Lake would be the highest hydro-electric “head” in Canada. In order to transport the water, a 13,500-foot tunnel would be drilled through Four Brothers Mountain, passing the contents of Jones Lake through a brand new generating station – the largest in western Canada.

In addition to constructing a 1,375-foot-long, 55-foot-high rock-fill dam, the tunnel, and the generating station, B.C. Electric also announced that the project included two million dollars for the construction of a new transmission line linking the Wahleach Power Station to the main transmission system in Surrey. Based on a Swedish design, it would be the first ultra-high voltage line to be built in North America and would be capable of carrying 345,000 volts – over 50 per cent more than standard transmission lines!

Despite the relatively short and efficient construction period, the Wahleach project did not escape the minor snags that befall any large project. In late November 1951, six construction workers became trapped when a pile of timber being slid down a steep section of the tunnel became jammed. The timber, which was being removed to make way for a cement tunnel lining, was cleared after the six had spent 10 hours trapped in a section of the tunnel with a 48 degree incline. None of the workers were injured, but they were tired and hungry. Just a few months after, in January 1952, the tunnel builders walked off the job demanding higher wages. After five days, the miners returned to work while negotiations continued.

On Dec. 4, 1952, Premier W.A.C. Bennett officially opened the Wahleach Hydro-Electric Plant with the turn of a knob. Bennett, Grauer, and B.C.E. chief engineer, Tom Ingledow, were joined by over 300 officials at the Hotel Vancouver where a radio-telephone circuit connected the switch panel to the power plant for the grand opening. Grauer noted that “new engineering frontiers have been crossed and new knowledge gained…which ensures ample electricity for better living.”

The Wahleach Power Project was a major step forward in the electrification of British Columbia as it added 82,000 horsepower of electrical energy to the B.C.E. grid, bringing the total to 605,800 horsepower – more than double what had been available just five years before in 1947. The project created millions of man-hours of work for British Columbians in engineering, manufacturing, and general labour in order to complete the 18-month project that provided 14 per cent of British Columbia’s electrical capacity – and it all took place in Hope’s backyard!

Today you can access the Jones Lake BC Hydro Recreation Site by travelling nine kilometres up a steep, gravel 4×4 road from Laidlaw.

Just Posted

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in March at the Hope Station House, showing support for preserving the 1916 building. (Photo/Christian Ward)
New reports breathe life into efforts to save the Hope Station House

The documents were presented to District of Hope Council at a meeting June 14

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

A 34-year-old man was arrested Monday after Transit Police found him riding a SkyTrain with a shotgun in the front of his sweatpants. (Transit Police)
SkyTrain passenger arrested, charged for concealing shotgun in his sweatpants

Codty-James Gray, 34, was found with ammunition, brass knuckles and knives

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Most Read