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Potential Impacts of Run-of-River Power Hydroprojects on Salmonids

Pacific Salmon Foundation release the first independent review of IPP Run-of-River Hydro projects in January on this year.



In British Columbia, our electrical power is typically produced, transmitted, and managed by the BC Hydro and Power Authority (BC Hydro).  In recent decades, alternative energy sources have become increasingly important as BC Hydro looks to meet increased demands, manage their costs, and minimize environmental impacts (water and wildlife, climate change effects, and air quality).  British Columbia’s demand for electricity is currently 57,000 GWh/yr and is expected to increase by 40% over 20 years ( ).  Presently, our supply of electrical power is provided by 34 BC Hydro facilities and 82 other facilities built and managed by Independent Power Producers (IPPs). 
In 2013, IPPs provide 27% of the current supply produced from a variety of energy sources including 44 nonXstorage hydro projects (23% of IPP power, and 6% of BC’s current demand)1. NonXstorage hydro is otherwise referred to as RunXofXRiver (RoR) Hydro projects.  IPPs may also play an important role in meeting the future energy demand.  BC Hydro has signed Electricity Purchase Agreements (EPAs) involving 45 new IPP facilities that are at varying degrees of development2.  NonXstorage hydro projects could play a significant role in these future projects accounting for 30 projects and providing half of the total projected supply of 6,892 GWh/yr.  For comparison, if constructed, BC Hydro’s Site C project on the Peace River is designed to produce 5,100 GWh/yr.  If the new IPPs plus Site C were developed, in aggregate these projects would supply only half of the expected increase of 40% over our current usage!  Each hydroXelectric project in BC will also be associated with an environmental cost.  The scale of impact can vary greatly from large reservoirs flooding timber and agricultural lands to much smaller IPP projects with much more localized effects (except for the Alcan facility at Kemano, built in 1957).  IPP facilities, however, involve more numerous sites and evoke concerns about their cumulative effects across BC.  And, to get to the focus of this review, projects involving streams and rivers in BC also generate immediate concerns for our newest official symbol of British Columbia, the Pacific salmon.

Salmon River Watershead Enrichment for Fish Habitat Restoration (2010)

Attached below is a report on Salmon River by Kevin Pellett from the BC Conservation Foundation for Campbell River Salmon Foundation.



On June 30, 2010, inorganic fertilizer was applied to the Salmon River (Kelsey Bay), Grilse Creek, Memekay River and the White River (July 14) to restore nutrients lost through decreased salmon production and to address footprint impacts as a result of BC Hydro diversion operations. While many species benefit from enrichment activities on the Salmon River, winter-run steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and coho salmon (O. kisutch) are the primary targets. A total of 3,570 kg of slow release fertilizer (Crystal Green, 5-27-0) was distributed over eight sites in the Salmon and Memekay rivers as well as Grilse Creek. Additionally, four sites in the White River/Consort Creek drainage were enriched. Partnership funding from the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and Living Rivers Georgia Basin/Vancouver Island was used to purchase, apply, and monitor nutrient applications.


Water sampling results indicate that orthophosphate and total phosphorous levels were elevated in treated reaches as compared to representative controls. Nitrogen levels were variable, but generally sufficient to support algal growth. Periphyton collector plates confirmed that chlorophyll a, used as a surrogate for algal growth, was elevated in treated reaches. However; juvenile fish growth analysis from data collected in Grilse Creek suggested that no significant difference in mean weight was achieved by fry in treated reaches. This is the first time in thirteen years that the difference in growth has not been significant. High summer flows have been suspected to reduce the effectiveness of previous treatments. In 2010, flows were nearly 50% higher than the 10 year average.

Emerging Challenges for BC’s Interlinked Water and Energy Resources

British Columbia ’s interconnected water and water-derived energy resources are vital
assets that show signs of being under increased stress across the province. Population growth,
climate change, and increased industrial activities are together pushing the limits of secured access
to water and energy resources across the province. In the face of these mounting pressures,
the challenge of ensuring access to water and energy resources for future generations requires addressing
how decisions regarding one resource may impact another. Integrating decision-making
around the management of BC’s interlinked water and energy resources is critical and will have
implications for their sustainable use, now and into the future.

Some of the noteworthy challenges emerging in BC include:
      • Sharp projected increases in the natural gas industry’s demand for water and energy resources
           — demand that will result in permanent removal of water from the hydrological cycle as well as undermine the province’s clean energy and climate change objectives....


Report From:

Parfitt, Ben with Baltutis, Jesse, and Brandes, Oliver M. "From Stream to Stream:  Emerging Challenges for BC’s Interlinked Water and Energy Resources" Accessed March 10, 2013