After 80 years, it's time for an upgrade
After 80 years of service, the facility needs to be upgraded to meet modern seismic requirements and to replace the powerhouse equipment, which is in poor condition and is increasingly unreliable.
See below for a video summary of the Ruskin upgrade and check out the Ruskin Regeneration video to learn more.
We've learned a lot about dam safety and earthquakes
Safety is a core value for BC Hydro and we have a rigorous dam safety program. We continually compare the condition and designs of our dams against current national and international best practices.
Today, 80 years after the Ruskin project was built, we understand more about how dams perform under all conditions, including earthquakes. The Ruskin Dam was originally built in the 1930s, and BC Hydro has concerns about how the dam would perform in a major earthquake.
BC Hydro has implemented several projects to improve dam safety at Ruskin, including lowering of the reservoir level in 2005, the anchoring of the crest block in 2007 and improvements to the right bank in 2010. This project will complete the work required to bring the dam up to modern day requirements.
Much of the powerhouse equipment was installed in the 1930s, with a third generator being added in the 1950s. This equipment is becoming increasingly unreliable and will be replaced with new modern units.
In addition to improved reliability, the new generators will be more efficient. As part of the powerhouse upgrade, BC Hydro plans to restore the heritage façade of the building and has the opportunity to design a greener, more Power Smart facility through the use of more energy efficient equipment and lighting.
Four major components, and a variety of benefits
The Ruskin Dam and Powerhouse Upgrade Project has four major components:
- The right bank of the dam will be reinforced with a specially designed cutoff wall, to control and manage seepage.
- The seven existing concrete piers and spillway gates will be removed and replaced with five new ones. Once work on the spillway gates is completed, the road atop the dam, currently a single lane, will be replaced with a two-lane deck and pedestrian walkway.
- The existing powerhouse structure will be seismically upgraded and the powerhouse equipment will be replaced. The penstocks and intake tunnels that move water from the reservoir to the powerhouse will also be upgraded.
- Finally, the switchyard, currently located on the roof of the powerhouse, will be relocated on to the left bank behind the road and re-built.
All of the work has been planned to minimize risk and impacts to the environment and local community. For example, the three turbine and generators in the powerhouse will be replaced sequentially to allow the powerhouse to remain in operation throughout the project. This helps to minimize the requirement for spills and helps to maintain flow continuity downstream for fish.
Improved seismic performance and public safety
- Reduced risk of unplanned spills
- Dam would survive a severe earthquake without significant damage – it is being designed to withstand the 1 in 10,000 year earthquake
Increased reliability and efficiency
- Once the upgrade is complete, Ruskin will be able to provide electricity for approximately 33,000 homes
- New powerhouse will be more energy efficient with Power Smart lighting and new windows
Improved environmental performance
- Improved reliability of generating units and ability for auto-spill reduces risk of unplanned spilling and improves BC Hydro's ability to maintain flow continuity downstream for fish
- Maintenance of spillway gates can be done without reservoir drawdown
- Improved oil containment and reduction in overall oil used in the facility
Improved local infrastructure
- New two lane road over dam with pedestrian walkway
- Restored heritage face of the powerhouse