Construction of a new $187 million hydroelectric project is now underway in the Fraser Canyon.
In one of his last official duties, Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner attended a celebration hosted by the Kanaka Bar Indian Band last Thursday marking the official start of the project.
“This is the biggest economic boost the Fraser Canyon has had in several decades,” said Penner.
“The band themselves have had this idea for over 20 years, but it’s taken until now to get everything approved and find the investor that could pull it off.”
The Kwoiek Creek hydroelectric project is being developed in partnership between the Kanaka Bar Indian Band and Innergex Renewable Energy.
Located on the west side of the Fraser Canyon, about 14 kilometers south of Lytton, it will be able to produce 50 megawatts of zero-emission, renewable electricity for BC Hydro – enough to power approximately 20,000 homes.
The run-of-the-river project will divert a portion of flow from Kwoiek Creek to a power station located on reserve lands.
Water will return back to the creek a short distance upstream of the Fraser River.
There will be no dam, as in conventional hydroelectric projects, and no significant storage of water above the intake. The Ministry of Environment requires that some flow (0.55 centimetres) be maintained within the bypassed section of the creek at all times to support fish and aquatic habitat.
“The first priority is to keep water in the creek,” said Penner.
“What that means is that during certain dry times of year, the project itself will have to be curtailed and won’t be able to operate at full capacity.”
Penner signed an environmental assessment certificate approving the project in 2009, which also passed a federal environmental assessment. It is expected to provide the province $670,000 per year in water rental fees and contribute another $600,000 annually in rural property taxes.
There are currently 51 people working on the construction phase, including 31 members of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band. More workers will be hired as the project progresses over the next two years. A new tram has been built across the Fraser River to transport materials and workers.
“It will save approximately 90 minutes of travel time each way and it will be a safer way than driving on those windy forest service road,” said Penner.
There’s already some interest in keeping the tram in place after construction is complete, but Penner said it will depend on who’s willing to pay for the maintenance.
Operation of the hydroelectric project is slated to begin in the summer of 2013.
More information on the project is available at www.kwoiekcreekhydro.com.