Widening the Kootenay River at Grohman Creek

Kootenay River dredging unlikely to affect Nelson Hydro

A Nelson Hydro manager says any dredging of Grohman Narrows by BC Hydro likely won’t have much effect on the city’s downstream power plant.

A Nelson Hydro manager says any dredging of Grohman Narrows by BC Hydro likely won’t have much effect on the city’s downstream power generation.

“My guess is it will have a minimal positive impact [on Nelson Hydro],” operations manager Mike Amos told the Star. “It won’t have a negative impact because we have a firm license guaranteeing water.”

Nelson’s power plant generates the same amount of electricity except during spring freshet, Amos said. “That’s where it may have a small impact, where we have more water. We can run up to full capacity at that time. The rest of the year it wouldn’t affect us at all.”

Last year Nelson’s plant ran at full capacity from the last week in April until the first week in August due to the higher-than-normal snowpack, rainfall, and runoff that combined for the highest river levels in nearly 40 years.

The 90 gigawatt hours the plant produced was the most in its 107-year history and resulted in a $500,000 windfall for the company, which is normally under contract to sell surplus power to BC Hydro at a fixed rate. Last year, however, BC Hydro also had a surplus of power and didn’t need any more.

While dredging the Narrows was last done in the late 1930s and early ‘40s, Amos said it has been discussed many times since. He said the biggest question mark is the effect on fish.

BC Hydro last week began riverbed surveys to determine if widening the Kootenay River bottleneck is feasible and is expected to decide early in 2014 whether to continue to the next stage of investigation. If dredging goes ahead, it will still be a few years away.

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