Run of River wouldn’t replace dam

The provincial government is looking at decommissioning the 80-year-old Ruskin Dam.

The provincial government is looking at decommissioning the 80-year-old Ruskin Dam.

If B.C. Hydro decides to tear down the Ruskin Dam, the Upper Pitt run-of-river project won’t be relied upon to make up for that lost power generation.

Run of River Power spokesperson Kirsten Langan said the company has no plans to resubmit its Upper Pitt power plan should B.C. Hydro put out another call for independent power projects.

The issue is transmission, Langan said.

The upper Pitt River valley is surrounded on three sides by provincial parks: Pinecone Burke to the west; Garibaldi to the north; and Golden Ears to the east.

In order to get the power from the remote valley to customers in the Lower Mainland, transmission lines would have to be built through one of the parks to be economically viable, and the province has thus far been cool to offer the company an exemption.

The project would have seen eight tributaries of the Upper Pitt River dammed for run-of-river power generation, and generated 155 megawatts. The project was scuttled in 2008 after then environment minister Barry Penner refused to allow the company to run power lines through Pinecone Burke provincial park.

“We have no way to get that power to market,” said Langan. “Unless that changes, we won’t be including the project [on future calls for independent power].”

B.C. Hydro’s $850-million plan to upgrade the Ruskin Dam was questioned by energy minister Rich Coleman last week, who ordered the provincial power utility to look at decommissioning it instead.

The Ruskin Dam currently produces around 300 megawatts of power, which will be increased to 320 megawatts after the upgrade.

The project is part of B.C. Hydro’s $6 billion plan to upgrade its infrastructure around the province.

Coleman announced a review of B.C. Hydro’s plans last week, as the cost is projected to push electricity rates up by as much as 50 per cent in the next five years.

The potential loss of the dam would mean the loss of enough power for more than 33,000 homes.

Despite repeated requests for interviews, B.C. Hydro refused to comment.