Hugh Keenleyside Dam

Update: Dam deck to remain closed to motorized vehicles

History and hydroelectric operation

Keenleyside Dam

Hugh Keenleyside Dam, 8 km (5 miles) upstream from Castlegar, was the second of three Columbia River Treaty dams to be built by BC Hydro. The Columbia River Treaty allowed construction of dams to regulate the flow of the Columbia River and end the annual threat of flood damage in B.C., Washington and Oregon.

Additional benefits were increased power generation at existing power plants and the development of large power plants at several locations along the Columbia and its tributaries.

The earth fill and concrete structure was declared operational on October 10, 1968, nearly six months ahead of schedule. The dam is about 52 m (171 feet) high, with a crest length of 853.4 m (2,800 ft.). 366 m (1,200 ft.) of the crest length is concrete dam and the rest is earth fill dam.

Keenleyside Dam controls a drainage area of 3,650,000 ha (14,100 square miles). It holds back a storage reservoir (the Arrow Lakes) extending 232 km (145 miles) north to Revelstoke. Release of the 8.8 billion cubic m (7.1 million acre-ft.) of live storage is controlled by four sluice ways and eight low-level ports.

In 2002 the provincially owned Columbia Power Corporation completed construction of a 185 MW powerplant adjacent to the dam.

Keenleyside navigational lock

The Hugh Keenleyside Dam navigational lock is available for all properly equipped watercraft. There is no charge for use of the lock; however, weekday passage may be delayed because of the need to pass commercial traffic and logs downstream of the dam. Commercial traffic will have priority in all cases over pleasure craft.

Dam deck to remain closed to motorized vehicles

A recent risk assessment for the Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam determined that reopening the deck and allowing traffic to use the dam deck as a roadway is a high-risk activity with serious potential consequences.

This is due to the dam deck's configuration, poor or obstructed sight lines, driver inattention and failure to obey posted speed limits. The risk assessment looked at potential options for reopening the dam deck for public use and found that there are no reasonable safety measures that can be put into place to ensure worker and public safety, and recommends that the dam deck be permanently closed to public access.

Over the past several months, we've met with local residents, elected officials and key stakeholders to discuss the safety concerns related to providing access across the Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam. An open house and discussion was held at the Castlegar & District Community Complex on February 11, 2016 that also generated a number of issues and options for our consideration.

We have now completed our review of all the potential options for access across the dam that we heard through all of our discussions, as well as through phone calls and emails.

  1. We've concluded that there's no option available to make the dam deck safe for motorized traffic, and that allowing continued access to vehicles is a high risk activity that could result in someone being seriously hurt. This level of risk is unacceptable and entirely preventable as there is an alternate route available via the Robson Bridge.
  2. Based on a suggestion we received at the public meeting, we've identified an opportunity to provide access for cyclists and pedestrians during special events. We'll be working to develop guidelines for community use.
  3. We'll also continue to work with local government and the community over the next few months to look at how we can provide some community benefits for the loss of vehicle access across the dam. We would welcome your input on this opportunity.
  4. We'll also continue to maintain access to the navigational lock through the south side of the facility. 

Read the Keenleyside Dam risk assessment [PDF, 420 KB]

Read the public safety management plan [PDF, 5.8 MB]