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BC Hydro works with mills to minimize impact of Keenleyside lock maintenance

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Posted by Sabrina Locicero

When James Stark became the plant manager for Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar in September of 2009, he quickly saw an opportunity to work more closely with BC Hydro's downstream stakeholders. So he set up quarterly meetings between BC Hydro, Interfor and Zellstoff Celgar.

A year later, the relationships James developed helped the Keenleyside dam project operate with minimal impact to stakeholders over a three-week maintenance project on its navigational locks in October.

The downstream pulp and sawmills, Interfor and Zellstoff Celgar, rely heavily on the navigational lock at Hugh Keenleyside Dam for their operations. The navigational lock raises and lowers boats between the Arrow Lakes Reservoir and the Columbia River, and since 1968, the equivalent of an average of 70 truckloads of logs per day have passed through the navigational lock.

Today, that number has increased to 85 to 110 truckloads per day.

The stakeholder meetings between BC Hydro, Interfor and Zellstoff Celgar were established to discuss how navigational lock closures – necessary for maintenance – would have minimal impacts on mill operations downstream.

In early October, BC Hydro closed and drained the navigational locks to complete a series of inspections and debris removal as part of the structure's required regular maintenance. For three weeks, anywhere from 12 to 35 workers were onsite in the area that is the only connecting point between the Arrow Lakes Reservoir and the Columbia River.

The collection of experts examined the gates, concrete, hoists and cranes as part of civil and physical inspections. The debris removal work occurs every two years and normally results in the removal of 10 to 12 truckloads of debris.

"This maintenance outage was originally scheduled to take place in April," says Hugh Keenleyside plant manager James. "However, through discussions with our stakeholders, it became apparent that this would have a tremendous impact on their operations. So the majority of the maintenance was rescheduled for October to accommodate their needs.

For the mills to prepare for the outage, they needed to stockpile enough logs to remain operational for the three-week outage period. In order to help them meet their required targets, BC Hydro extended the operating hours of the navigational lock, and condensed the maintenance schedule by two days.

Interfor and Celgar are among the largest employers in the Castlegar area. By ensuring that they are able to operate as effectively as possible, BC Hydro is supporting the continued economic success of not only these companies, but the community as a whole.

Sabrina Locicero is a writer/editor with BC Hydro's employee communications department.