Dam Safety & BC Hydro

Monitoring, reports, and a capital plan for upgrades

BC Hydro's dam safety program is responsible for managing the safety of all of BC Hydro's structures that retain the reservoirs and control the passage of water that flows through, around and beyond our dams.

This is undertaken by professional and technical staff responsible for all aspects of dam safety including surveillance, investigations, risk analysis and prioritization, project initiation and oversight, and regulatory compliance and reporting.

The evaluation of the safety of our dams also helps to form the foundation of our long-term capital plan to upgrade our facilities where deficiencies are identified.

Get details of our approach to dam safety risks

 Our approach to dam safety risks  

The Board has delegated implementation, coordination and authority for safety issues related to BC Hydro's dams through the President and CEO to the Deputy CEO and the Director of Dam Safety. The Director will report on the safety of BC Hydro's dams to the Board quarterly.

BC Hydro's approach to managing risks from dams is as follows:

  • Large dams involve risk, risk which is accepted for the benefits that accrue from relatively inexpensive and environmentally sustainable electricity and from flood control.
  • BC Hydro's dams have been, and will continue to be, built on the basis of good practice existing at the time of their construction and a proven approach ensuring that they are as strong and as safe as it is practicable to make them.
  • Though aging and normal wear and tear present constant challenges, and new threats sometimes emerge, BC Hydro's aim is to manage the whole fleet of dams, so that there is no significant deterioration in the risk position and that the overall level of risk is kept well within limits considered to be tolerable. To exclude risk altogether is impossible, for this or for any significant hazard.
  • Our method is to keep the condition of the dams and the risks they present under constant review within the requirements of the BC Dam Safety Regulations, and to identify and measure, so far as possible, any new threats, and to make any necessary improvements and repairs as soon as it is practicable.
  • Our approach takes account of economy and cost. Whenever it is possible to make improvements or necessary to take remedial measures, we first refer to international and Canadian best practices, seeking to achieve as large an increment to safety as possible, and at the very minimum, not to accept any reduction in the level of safety. We therefore seek to balance the cost of each possible improvement against the added safety it would achieve, erring always on the side of safety, and subject to the overriding condition that if the resulting risk level is less than acceptable, the reservoir elevation would be reduced to restore the level of safety or the dam would be taken out of service.

The whole approach involves constant monitoring and estimation of risks and threats, taking advantage of lessons learned worldwide. It implies an ongoing program of review, with improvements, and remedial actions where necessary prioritized according to:

  1. The size and significance of the added safety that can be achieved, in relation to the cost
  2. The degree of urgency, while recognizing the need to ensure the application of the best possible expertise.

Dam Safety at BC Hydro booklet [PDF, 10.7 MB]