Bridge River BC Hydro Projects Update

Jul 27, 2022
Affected Communities: 
Electoral Area A

Leading alternative for LaJoie Dam upgrade

LaJoie Dam is located at the upper end of the Bridge River system, significantly influencing the watershed. We’re making large capital investments to the dam’s infrastructure as it comes to the end of its life. These seismic upgrades are required to ensure the facility continues to operate safely. 

After working with St’at’imc Nation and stakeholders to evaluate the alternatives for the project, improving the dam to return to normal reservoir levels was chosen as the leading alternative. This alternative includes working with St’at’imc Nation to review future operational options and regimes that could maximize the overall environmental benefits to upstream wildlife and downstream fish habitats. We’re currently working on identifying the design options for the various aspects of the project. 

Studies have already begun with a drawdown of the Downton Reservoir this past spring which allowed us to complete site investigations at the upstream toe of the dam. This work included test pitting and taking samples from the concrete structures as well as environmental and archaeological monitoring to better understand impacts associated with a drawdown. Water levels in the reservoir have now returned to normal seasonal levels. Construction at LaJoie is expected to begin in 2027 with targeted completion in 2032.
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Seton Unit Replacement Project: coring complete, assessment underway

Things continue to move forward on the Seton Unit Replacement Project and proposed Seton Hydraulic By-Pass as rock characteristics are being evaluated from the recent coring.

In service since 1956, plans are underway to replace the generator and turbine to ensure the facility continues to operate safely. As part of the project, we’re planning to install a hydraulic bypass to allow water to continue to flow down the power canal from Seton Lake to the Fraser River, while work is underway in the station. The bypass will help us to maintain flow commitments in the Water Use Plan and helps us mitigate the risk of impacts to fish.

Project Manager John Wou says they’re assessing the data from the drilling program done for the bypass route which finished in the first quarter of 2022. At the same time they are taking a closer look at the unit, “We’ve done our due diligence on the studies. What we need to have is an understanding of the unit itself. Confirming the equipment health of the old equipment and driving from that, the specs for the new one.”

Assessing the results from the recent coring will take time as they will be identifying the characteristics of the rock. Wou says it will most likely be a rock tunnel and underground, which will help to avoid archeological sites that have been identified in the area, “Since we will be going deep underground there will be less disturbance. The good rock is deep, so we have to follow the good rock.”

The Seton bypass is currently in the feasibility-design stage which is expected to last another 6-8 months. The targeted completion for the proposed Seton Hydraulic By-pass is 2026 followed by the Seton Unit Replacement set to finish in 2027.

Update: workforce forecast

BC Hydro’s workforce in the Bridge River region can vary depending on project status. This summer,  approximately 50 workers will be in the area. Most construction is expected between April and September. Workers will stay at existing facilities with the majority in Tsal’álh/Seton Portage. No additional  accommodation is required this year.

Freshet flows for 2022

BC Hydro increased flows at Terzaghi Dam for the Lower Bridge River this spring/ early summer due to a  higher than normal forecasted snow pack. In years with higher snowpack, inflows to reservoirs during the freshet period are greater than average. Increasing flows during spring/early summer helps to protect  juvenile salmon currently migrating out to the ocean and also helps to avoid increased flows in the fall when adult salmon return to spawn. Flows started decreasing on July 6th and will continue to ramp down until August, after which releases will return to normal. These changes in flow are decided in consultation and collaboration with St’át’imc Nation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the BC Ministry of Forests and will continue to discuss the flow forecast with BC Hydro.

Update: Bridge River regulatory filings

Approximately 1300 responses have been filed on BC Hydro’s application for a joint Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for both the Bridge River 1 Unit 1-4 Generator Replacement Project and the Bridge River Transmission Project with theBC Utilities Commission (BCUC).
BC Hydro entered one of its final submissions on the project to the Commission in June, and has received Intervenor Arguments. The project at Bridge River 1 will replace aging generating equipment in the Generating Station to improve reliability of the generating units by mitigating the risk of equipment failure and improving the management of water flows in the Bridge River System. The targeted completion is 2030.

This will help BC Hydro:

  • Comply with the 2011 Bridge River – Seton Water Use Plan Order target flow schedule
  • Meet its commitments in the 2011 Agreements and 2019 High Flow Settlement Agreements with the St’át’imc Nation
  • Maintain fish and fish habitat in Lower Bridge River.

As for the Bridge River Transmission project, it will maintain and upgrade the existing system, improving its ability to move electricity from where it is produced at Bridge River to other parts of the province. The targeted completion for that project is set for 2025.


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