BC Hydro researching outcomes of lowering Williston Reservoir elevation

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MACKENZIE, B.C. — BC Hydro has been meeting with the District of Mackenzie and the three large lumber and pulp mills in the community, as part of the Mackenzie Industry Feasibility and Design Study.

Spokesperson Bob Gammer wrote in an e-mailed statement to Energetic City,that BC Hydro has submitted the results of the second phase to the province’s Comptroller of Water Rights for review, with a decision on whether to proceed with further phases of the study to be made.

These phases would ‘refine cost estimates for infrastructure solutions to allow the three major mills to continue operations through low reservoir conditions below elevation 2,147 ft.’

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If they were given permission to operate below elevation 2,147 ft, Gammer writes it would be infrequent — less than once in ten years — and last for a few days to a few weeks from late winter to early spring.

The Peace Water Use Plan outlines what other factors could come out of an elevation of 2,147 ft.

“The operation of the log transporter may be unusable for a longer period of time if the reservoir is drawn down to elevation 654.14 m (2147.0 ft) which could result in higher log supply costs.


The proposed operating condition to allow the Williston Reservoir to be drawn down to elevation 654.14 m (2147.0 ft) which may effect the ability of Abitibi and Pope & Talbot mills and the District of Mackenzie to dispose of effluent while meeting the conditions of their permits.”

However, the idea of lowering the level isn’t popular with locals in the town of Mackenzie, located just off the southern tip of Williston Lake. Mayor Pat Crook says lowering the water level will affect almost all industries in the town — especially one of the biggest employers, the pulp mill.

“Water intake for the pulp mill would be too low, so they’d have to put in all new piping into a river from a lake,” he told Energetic City. “As far as the pulp mill, they’d have to shut down.”

He adds that the municipality would have to extend their effluent line several kilometres to get it into a river, and discharging it into the river versus the reservoir would mean having to add another water treatment system.


Crook is hoping that more citizens in Mackenzie will be informed by speaking out on this, and so far one has been very vocal on his own — Rick Berry, resident of 36 years. He has concerns that, if the reservoir is used to power the rest of the province, not filling it all the way to it’s potential in favour of keeping it at the lower limit isn’t a benefit.

“The government, by shutting us down — we are a very rich, little forest community — will cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue,” he said in an interview with Energetic City.

“The (W.A.C.) Bennett Dam, which produces 37 per cent of B.C.’s power, is based on the fact that is refills to the top every year. Now, at 2,147, on a normal year, they have a good chance of doing that. If they take it to 2,140, they will not refill to the top.”

Berry claims, because of head pressure and the size of the lake, the top 15 ft of the Bennett Dam is more significant than any other amount of water in power production.

“We fought this out 20 years ago when Glen Clark tried to do it, and Hydro helped us fight Glen Clark because they didn’t want to do it.”


Right now, the elevation of the reservoir is 2,190.4 ft.

Community Interviews with Moose FM

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