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Bill seeks economic improvement through hydro development

Legislation that could significantly affect the hydropower industry passed both houses of Canada's Parliament and as of press time was awaiting the governor general's signature to become law.

Bill C-38 - also known as the Budget Implementation Act - would modify a number of existing acts to help spur hydroelectric development and expansion with the goal of stimulating economic growth.

A study released by the Canadian Electricity Association in February says Canadian utilities must collectively spend nearly C$359.2 billion (US$350 billion) on power generation and transmission projects by 2030 if it hopes to keep up with the demands of the nation's electrical network.

In addition, the Canadian Hydropower Association indicates that such investment could produce more than 1 million jobs from construction activities alone.

Proponents of Bill C-38 say the legislation could help realize those objectives by reforming current policies to create an environment more conducive to hydropower development. Amongst the bill's numerous facets is an emphasis on improving four key areas:

- Making the review process more timely and predictable;

- Reducing administrative duplicity in project reviews;

- Strengthening environmental protection; and

- Increasing agency interactions with aboriginal groups.

In doing so, Bill C-38 would affect a number of existing acts, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Energy Board Act and Species at Risk Act.

Alterra, Klahoose First Nation sign development agreement

The Alterra Power Corporation and Klahoose First Nation have signed a Resource Development Agreement for advancement of the Upper Toba project in British Columbia. The agreement outlines terms under which the facility can proceed and how the project can be brought into commercial operation, according to the Klahoose First Nation.

Alterra's Upper Toba project will be located within the traditional territory of the Klahoose First Nation.

The venture is an expansion of Alterra's Toba Valley operation, which is already home to its 235-MW Toba Montrose run-of-river plant.

The company's latest project includes the construction of two new run-of-river plants - one on Jimmie Creek and one on the Upper Toba River - that will have a combined capacity of up to 124 MW.

The new facilities will use much of the infrastructure already in place for Toba Montrose, including a transmission line that travels through the traditional territories of the Sliammon and Sechelt First Nations.

Alterra says electricity generated by the stations will be supplied to BC Hydro, as per a 40-year power purchase agreement.

In related developments, an agreement between Alterra and the Sliammon First Nation will allow for the transmission of power from the proposed 1,027-MW Bute Inlet project.

The agreement will allow Alterra to develop the transmission infrastructure needed to carry power from the Bute Inlet project's 17 run-of-river sites on a path that is expected to use the existing Toba Montrose corridor.

All of the Bute project's generating sites are located within the traditional lands of the Homalco First Nation, although the transmission line will also cross the territories of the Klahoose, Sliammon and Sechelt First Nations.

Alstom wins trio of contracts for Canadian hydropower projects

Alstom Hydro has been awarded three contracts worth about C$51.3 million (US$50 million) for work at two hydroelectric sites.

At Hydro-Quebec's 1,900-MW Beauharnois Generating Station, located about 40 km southwest of Montreal and in operation since 1932, Alstom is to supply a 47-MW Francis turbine runner for Unit C-1 and five upgraded propeller runners, including part refurbishment for Unit C-3. The work at C-3 is an option exercised on a contract originally awarded to Alstom by Hydro-Quebec in 2010.

The company says it expects the runner for C-1 to be delivered in November 2013 and the first upgraded runner, for Unit C-3, to be delivered in 2014.

The third project, to be completed at the 78-MW Pointe du Bois generating station on the Winnipeg River, will see the company design and supply new gates and hoists for the plant's spillway. The facility is owned by Manitoba Hydro.

BC Hydro gets green light for 114-MW Ruskin plant upgrades

BC Hydro has received a go-ahead from the British Columbia Utilities Commission for upgrades at the 114-MW Ruskin powerhouse and dam.

British Columbia Utilities Commission says the C35.3 million (US16.5 million) project will take six years and will address the 82-year-old Ruskin facility's seismic safety and reliability issues.

BC Hydro submitted an application for the project to BCUC in February 2010, which includes reinforcement of the right bank, seismic upgrade of the dam and water intakes, powerhouse upgrades and relocation of the switchyard.

The upgrade work is part of BC Hydro's three-year capital investment strategy to renew and expand the province's electricity system. These investments are required to improve and replace facilities that were built primarily between 1950 and 1980, ranging from upgrading dams and generating stations to building entirely new transmission lines linking existing and new substations.

BC Hydro says work on the facility is expected to be complete by March 2018.

Government approves British Columbia's 45-MW Kokish River plant

British Columbia's controversial 45-MW Kokish River project received an official go-ahead from Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans in May. The C$197.1 million (US$192 million) project was awarded an environmental assessment certificate by the province's Ministry of Environment in December 2011, although it had yet to receive DFO approval.

Project developers Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. and 'Nagamis First Nation told Canadian sources that they would begin construction - even without federal approval - before DFO announced it would approve the plan, pending modifications to the initial water release regime.

DFO says the project must change its release schedule to maintain "natural water flows in the river during the low summer flows and early fall salmon migration period." The department has declared the Kokish River a "high-value river" due to its population of wild salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, eulachon and endangered runs of summer and winter steelhead.

McLymont Creek project gets environmental go-ahead

British Columbia has granted an environmental assessment certificate for AltaGas Renewable Energy Inc.'s proposed 70-MW McLymont Creek project. The C$215 million (US$211 million) run-of-river McLymont complex would include almost 17 km of new roads and a 10-km power transmission line.

Alta Gas has signed a power purchase agreement with Canadian provincial utility BC Hydro, which will take effect on the project's anticipated commercial operational date of November 2015. Officials from British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office say the decision to grant the certificate came after it was decided the project would have no significant adverse effects, although it comes with a number of legally binding stipulations to which AltaGas must adhere.

Key requirements established by the EAO include:

- Implement and maintain a minimum in-stream flow requirement of 0.5 cubic meters per second in the McLymont Creek diversion reach;

- Develop, test and confirm operational criteria and procedures for flow ramping (controlling water flow levels during project startup and shutdown). This will include the creation of an overall ramping protocol for the combined operations of the McLymont Creek, Volcano Creek and Forrest Kerr projects, which are all owned by AltaGas;

- Implement comprehensive environmental management plans that outline roles and responsibilities, monitoring requirements, reporting requirements and training components for AltaGas and its contractors;

- Develop and implement a mountain goat monitoring and mitigation plan, which specifically addresses construction work restrictions during the sensitive period for mountain goats (Nov. 1 to June 14) to ensure that goats will not be negatively affected by construction activities;

- As part of the environmental management plans, describe and implement methods to monitor and control the establishment of invasive plant species; and

- Submit reports to EAO, at specified intervals (annually, prior to construction, operation, decommissioning, and once decommissioning is complete), indicating the status of compliance with the conditions of the environmental assessment certificate.

Even with the certificate in-hand, AltaGas must still obtain the necessary provincial and federal licenses, leases and other approvals before the project can proceed.

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