Facts about Dam Safety at BC Hydro

International safety standards are met by regular monitoring, rigorous inspections

john-hart-aerial-view-full-width-place.jpg
Seismic upgrades have been a key component to the John Hart Generating upgrade project on Vancouver Island.

BC Hydro owns, operates and maintains 79 dams at 41 sites throughout British Columbia. These dams have been operated safely for decades. Maintaining the safety and integrity of its facilities is a top priority for BC Hydro.

BC Hydro's dam safety program is based on real-time and long-term monitoring, rigorous inspections and meeting international expectations for dam safety.

  • BC Hydro monitors and assesses its dams on a continuous and ongoing basis. This includes:
    • Real-time monitoring using thousands of pieces of measurement devices and tools
    • Weekly site inspections at every dam by trained inspectors
    • Inspections twice a year at every dam by a dam safety engineer
    • Inspections by an independent dam safety consulting engineer every five to 10 years
    • Special inspections after landslides, earthquake, high winds, spillway discharges, floods
  • Dam safety instrumentation includes:
    • 3,000 piezometers measuring water levels in slopes, dams and foundations
    • 1,950 flow measurement devices
    • 4,800 movement measurement devices including survey points
    • 130 reservoir elevation measurement devices
    • 190 weather measurement devices (rainfall, air temperature, snow depth, wind speed)
    • 2,700 miscellaneous devices
  • Independent, expert review is key part of BC Hydro's dam safety program.
    • A 2013 independent audit by international experts – Dr. Georges Darbre of Switzerland, and Norman Himsley of Australia – found BC Hydro has a strong dam safety program and a robust risk assessment process consistent with international best practices.
  • BC Hydro's dam safety program is based on provincial regulations (e.g. BC Water Act), guidelines published by the Canadian Dam Association and international best practices.
  • Potential deficiencies are identified for further study. When dam safety improvements are found to be necessary, the projects are prioritized through BC Hydro's capital plan.
  • BC Hydro has made major investments in upgrading its dams over the last several years and will continue with this program by investing $1.8 billion over the next 10 years in dam safety and seismic upgrades.
  • Past upgrades include:
    • $19 million on safety upgrades for the Elsie Dam on Vancouver Island (2004)
    • $65 million on rebuilding the Coquitlam Dam (2008)
    • $20 million on anchoring the intake towers at Strathcona Dam on Vancouver Island (2009-2010)
      Future and current capital project upgrades include:
    • $400 million on Spillway Gates at various dams around the province – program started in 2005 and is ongoing
    • $1 billion on the John Hart Generating Station upgrade project
  • On May 1, 2014, the Joint Review Panel submitted its report on Site C to the federal and provincial governments, as part of the independent environmental assessment process.
    • On BC Hydro's safety record, the Panel wrote (page 253): “Furthermore, the Panel recognizes that BC Hydro is an experienced dam owner with an excellent record for dam safety and compliance and that no catastrophic dam failure has ever occurred in B.C.”

For more information please contact:
BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468