Campbell River system upgrades
Campbell River Hydroelectric Facilities Discovery Centre closed due to COVID-19
For the safety of our employees and customers, the Discovery Centre is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What we're planning
The John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project was successfully constructed on budget from 2014 to 2019. The project resolved the seismically poor penstocks coming from the dam and the downstream generating station by replacing them with a new underground tunnel and powerhouse.
Next up are the proposed dam safety capital projects at all three dams on the Campbell River system. They're all in the planning stages and are scheduled to go through a BC Utilities Commission application process, starting with the John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project in early 2021. We're looking at all potential synergies, including regulatory and procurement, to ensure these projects are managed efficiently and completed successfully.
John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project
Upgrade the earthfill and concrete dam to improve seismic performance. This includes:
- Placing upstream and downstream earthfill berms.
- Adding a seepage cutoff wall (impermeable wall) where required within the earthfill sections to act as a seepage barrier.
- Anchoring of the concrete dam structures.
- Upgrading the concrete roadway.
Construct permanent flood and flow imbalance risk mitigation upgrades. This includes:
- Adding an overflow spillway below the road deck.
- Replacing the three spillway gates and related works, such as the hoist system, so they can safely and more reliably pass water in a controlled manner downstream post-earthquake.
- Installing new equipment and upgrades to the existing protection and control equipment to meet current reliability standards, including improved post-earthquake operation.
Ladore Spillway Seismic Upgrade Project
- Replace the three spillway gates and related works, such as the hoist system, so they can retain and pass water in a controlled manner downstream post-earthquake.
- Install new equipment and upgrades to the existing protection and control equipment to meet current reliability standards, including improved post-earthquake operation.
Strathcona Dam Water Discharge Upgrade Project
- Construct a new low level outlet structure to provide the capability for a deep reservoir drawdown, which is currently not possible. This work includes construction of a deep channel and placing two gates in a concrete structure located within the bedrock on the right or east side of the dam. Post-earthquake, having a lower reservoir level will reduce the risks to the dam, and the controlled water releases from the dam also manages the risks to the downstream dams.
- Replace the existing three spillway gates and related works such as the hoist system with a new concrete overflow spillway, improving the reliability of the spillway system. The two new gates to be placed within the new channel, in addition to the Strathcona Generating Station discharges, will provide for downstream water management for fish, power generation and flood risk management.
For many decades, we've been assessing earthquake hazards at our dams and related facilities and upgrading the dams as required. In 2007, we launched a six-year, $10 million 'Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis' study, with the results released in 2014. We did this to create a best-in-class model for calculating earthquake hazards in B.C., and to use the results to better evaluate dam assessments and validate the resulting upgrades.
Not surprisingly, it was determined the highest risk in B.C. was on Vancouver Island given its proximity to the earth's shifting tectonic plates in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Vancouver Island is within the most seismically active zone in B.C.
The study determined that significant capital upgrades would be required at all three Campbell River dams. Until they're upgraded, there is an interim downstream risk to the public.
The City of Campbell River, Strathcona Regional District and BC Hydro have been collaboratively working together since late 2014 to communicate to the downstream community the potential impact of a severe earthquake and what measures the public could do to protect themselves. We developed the saying: If it knocks you down, go to high ground.
The Campbell River hydroelectric system is located within the Strathcona Regional District and the City of Campbell River. The watershed has significant fish, wildlife, recreation, and domestic water supply values, among other water use interests.
The John Hart Dam and Strathcona Dam projects will cause public road closures across the dams starting in 2023 and 2024, respectively. The road across the John Hart Dam may be closed for up to five years, and the road across the Strathcona Dam for up to three years.
These projects are primarily about downstream public safety. The expectation is that when the projects are complete, facilities like the John Hart Dam would be able to withstand a major earthquake and maintain the water within the reservoir. The facilities would also be able to release water, as they do today, in a controlled manner downstream. The projects would also benefit downstream fish and wildlife habitats, as well as domestic water supply, post-earthquake.
These projects will create significant subcontractor, supplier and service opportunities for companies on Vancouver Island. They will also create significant jobs.
To learn more about how we're working with the business community and job seekers on the Campbell River system upgrades, visit majorprojects.ca.
The estimated costs of these projects are being refined. A good estimate for the John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project will be provided when we file our BC Utilities Commission in early 2021. The same will apply when the other two projects are submitted.
Generally, each project is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The plan is to begin the BC Utilities Commission process in 2021 with the John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project. Closely following that will be the Strathcona and Ladore projects. Should we receive regulatory approvals, the John Hart project may begin in 2023 and the other two projects may begin in 2024.
The construction period for the John Hart project may be five years, with the other projects being around three years.
Starting in 2023, the Brewster Lake Road is anticipated to be closed for about five years where it crosses over the John Hart Dam.
There are no anticipated reservoir level drawdowns required during the proposed construction periods.
We have undertaken various social and environmental studies of the areas around the dams, ranging from vegetation, wildlife and fish assessments, to water quality. This work continues and is being presented to First Nations, government agencies, and stakeholders.
Since 2015, we've been consulting with First Nations and engaging the community on the proposed dam safety upgrades. One of the primary community engagement processes is through our Campbell River Hydroelectric Facilities Liaison Committee, which consists of about two-dozen stakeholders including government agencies, local government, environmental groups, recreation groups, business groups and others.
We'd like to hear from the Campbell River and wider community. We encourage you to go to our Campbell River Hydroelectric Facilities Discovery Centre located within the Elk Falls Suspension parking lot, off Highway 28. There, you can find out more about the projects and fill out a feedback form to provide comments, suggestions or concerns, and your degree of support for the projects.
Reports and documents
John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project Map [PDF, 715 KB]
Ladore Spillway Seismic Upgrade Project Map [PDF, 3.0 MB]
Strathcona Dam Water Discharge Upgrade Project Map [PDF, 537 KB]
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