Are run-of-river power projects killing BC’s fish?

Hydroelectric generators at the Mamquam River generating station owned by the Atlantic Power Corporation in Squamish, B.C. Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG

BC’s rivers are well-known all over the world for producing fish such as salmon and steelhead. In recent years, numerous fish have been found dead in these very rivers and many feel the run-of-river hydro projects are having negative impacts.

The independent power industry bills itself as green, sustainable, and environmentally responsible.

But more than 3,000 pages of documents obtained separately by The Vancouver Sun and the Wilderness Committee through freedom of information requests show water-flow fluctuations caused by run-of-river hydro projects are killing fish — and the problem is not isolated.

While independent power producers insist their sector remains the cleanest energy option, the documents bolster environmentalists’ long-standing concerns about the industry.

Private hydro run-of-river projects produce electricity by diverting river water and sending it through a pipe underground to where power is generated. The water is then returned to the river. Regulations concerning fluctuating water levels are set by both the provincial and federal governments. Private companies, on the other hand, do not always comply with the established in-stream flow requirements. The fluctuating rise and fall of water levels are harmful to juvenile salmon. 

In one incident on Ashlu Creek, on May 8, 2010, 166 salmon and trout fry became stranded due to rapidly dropping water levels. Fewer than half of the fry could be returned to the creek alive. Another 39 fry died during a stranding on April 20, 2011.

With more than 50 of these private hydro projects currently operating and selling their power to BC Hydro and another 635 water-power projects waiting to be processed, biologists and environmentalists continue to question the industry’s environmental impacts.

Read the full article.

 Today’s post submitted by Interpreter, Alex Zwick

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