BC Hydro receives approval to remove dam on Salmon River

The British Columbia Utilities Commission has issued a decision that the alternative of ceasing operations and decommissioning the Salmon River Diversion facility is the most appropriate approach.

BC Hydro filed an application for permission to permanently cease operations and decommission the facility in March 2017. The diversion, on central Vancouver Island, was completed in 1958 to redirect a portion of the water flow through an about 3-km-long canal to a pond and then through an improved natural channel to Brewster Lake, where it enters the Lower Campbell Reservoir and is used to augment generation at the 47-MW Ladore and 126-MW John Hart generating stations.

The decision was issued June 16. It said that in light of a variety of considerations — including a need to address the deteriorating condition of the timber-crib dam and spillway and the Patterson Creek Flume and canal; BC Hydro’s commitment to improve fish passage; and a need to address the fish screen and fishway performance — the commission granted BC Hydro permission to cease operations and decommission.

The downstream fish screen was installed in the canal in 1986 to return fish back to the Salmon River. However, BC Hydro said it does not operate reliably and the utility is required by the Campbell River Water Use Plan and the associated Order of the Comptroller of Water Rights to make improvements. The upstream fishway, which was added to the dam in 1992, also does not operate effectively.

Several alternative approaches were considered but the cease operations and decommission or rehabilitation alternatives were the most viable. The economics of these two alternatives are similar in their ratepayer impacts, but consideration of the environmental factors and local community and First Nations support led to the commission choosing the former alternative.

Reports indicate BC Hydro intends to remove the dam this summer, within a short fisheries instream work window.

The decision does not indicate how this approach may affect generation at the Ladore and John Hart stations.

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