BC Hydro responds to concerns about fracking and dam safety
Statement from Chris O'Riley, Deputy CEO, BC Hydro
First, it is important to note that to BC Hydro's knowledge, there has never been any fracking activity around (within 5 kilometres of) BC Hydro's dams.
That said, our dams are built to withstand much larger ground motions associated with higher magnitude events that are much longer in duration than fracking. In fact, our dams can withstand events many times larger than those associated with fracking. Fracking by itself cannot generate large magnitude earthquakes.
All earth-fill dams are purposely designed to have some seepage. Fracking does have the potential to increase the amount of natural seepage flow around and under these dams which only poses an issue of increased costs due to maintenance and operational requirements – not a dam safety issue.
While there has never been any known fracking activity around BC Hydro dams, there are existing tenures. The BC Oil and Gas Commission has put restrictions in place so that no new tenures will be issued within 5 kilometres of BC Hydro's dams, including around the Site C Clean Energy Project area. The BC Oil and Gas Commission has also agreed to notify BC Hydro prior to any planned activity in any of the existing tenures so that BC Hydro can plan its operations and maintenance activities accordingly.
These discussions have been precautionary in nature to ensure appropriate operational and maintenance activities if required in the future. BC Hydro's dam safety program is fully and independently regulated and the Provincial Comptroller of Water Rights is regularly advised of such discussions, which was done in this case. In 2014, BC Hydro released the results of a world class, six year seismic study on probabilistic seismic hazards related to our dams, which was communicated extensively to the public.
Our highest responsibility is public safety. Our dam safety program meets the highest standards including 24/7 instrumentation monitoring, weekly inspections, bi-annual engineering reports and regular expert reviews of all our dams by international, independent experts. Over the next 10 years, BC Hydro is investing approximately $1.9 billion in dam safety across the province.