Powering up, to light up Metro Vancouver

Ruskin dam refit on eastern border of Maple Ridge done, more or less

The new generators are humming, the five new seismically strengthened gates are working and the old power house has been renovated, with the ugly switchyard moved atop the hill to make Ruskin Dam and Powerhouse a lot more pleasing to the eye.

The six-year $748-million project, is complete for all intents and purposes and the powerhouse is humming along on all three new turbines and generators, cranking out enough power to turn on lights and computers for 33,000 Metro Vancouver homes.

But a big question most people may be asking is – when does Hayward Street atop the dam re-open – so commuters have another shortcut option to get them past tie-ups on Lougheed Highway or Dewdney Trunk Road.

That won’t be for awhile, says project manager Boyd Mason. Maybe next year, even.

Agreeements have to be worked out with the District of Mission, the power generating site itself has to be secured, while, even the concrete has yet to be poured for the road, which will have two lanes instead of the previous one, along with a sidewalk and bike lane.

In addition, the nearby recreational areas and parking lots need restoring so the official ribbon cutting for the whole project is months way, possibly this October.

“There were a lot of time and logistical challenges to this work,” Mason said. The installation of new turbines from Brazil, complemented the rebuilt generators that produce the power.

That will provide a boost of power of about eight per cent.

“So we’re using the same amount of water, we’re just getting more out it,” he said.

All of the work had to be done while the station kept running and pumping out power. Mason compared the task to doing a brake and engine overhaul on your vehicle while it was driving down the highway.

Mason explained during a tour of the site Tuesday that when excavating for installing a new berm on one side of the new dam, crews found part of an abandoned railway. Farther up the slope, a First Nations cultural site dating back 9,000 years was discovered, and then left in place, according to the wishes of the Kwantlen First Nation.

The project, with five massive spillway gates replacing the previous seven, was built to withstand a one-in-10,000-year earthquake, with the main goal of keeping Hayward Lake from breaching the dam.

A main symbol of the dam is the original light bulb switched on when the dam was completed in 1930, and which has remained lit since.

It hasn’t been decided but the bulb could find a permanent home in the Stave Falls Powerhouse Visitor Centre upstream.

A major last remaining piece are decorative concrete plaques that soon will be attached to the spillway showing First Nations designs.

Dates for an official opening and ribbon cutting haven’t been determined.

Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall and Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith toured the project along with B.C. Hydro president Chris O’Riley.

 

Original light bulb, from 1930, continues to burn. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

BC Hydro president Chris O’Riley, project manager Boyd Mason, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall, MLA Bob D’Eith at completed Ruskin Powerhouse and Dam upgrade. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Plaque had been on building for years.

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