Metro Vancouver is moving ahead with plans to add hydropower generation at the Capilano and Seymour reservoirs. The reservoirs together provide 70 per cent of the region's water needs, but they have plenty of water to spare, spilling it over their dams most of the year.
On November 30, the Metro Vancouver board approved a Joint Water Use Plan that favours initially adding a 12-14 MW plant to the west side of the 1950s-era Cleveland Dam on the Capilano Reservoir. The project would involve a new surface intake, with an underground tunnel and shaft connecting to an underground powerhouse. A second project would add a 2-4 MW plant at the Seymour Falls.
The powerhouses would only operate during the rainy seasons, while in the drier summer months of May to November, the region would be careful to maintain the water levels in the reservoir to ensure they can supply enough drinking water.
Having approved the plans, the region has submitted them to the Provincial Comptroller of Water Rights and is awaiting a decision.
The region sees a variety of environmental and economic benefits from the project.
For one thing the region will be able to generate "green" power, lowering its carbon footprint and also generating revenue to help run the water supply system.
The Capilano works would also help Coho and Steelhead fish to thrive. Currently many do not survive the steep drop from the spillway into the river below. The plans call for a fish screen near the intake followed by a fish capture and transport program. The conditions below the dam would improve and provide approximately double the fish habitat in the summer. Recreational kayaking and fishing below the dam should also benefit.
The estimated cost of the Capilano hydropower works is between $75 and $90 million.
A consultative committee that helped formulate the Joint Water Use Plan included various recreational and environmental groups, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, District of North Vancouver, District of West Vancouver, the Ministry of Environment, the Squamish Nation, and two members of the Metro Vancouver Utility Planning Department.
Compass Resource Management of Vancouver prepared the Consultative Committee Report.
Darryl Mussatto, chair of Metro Vancouver's Utilities Committee, said on November 30: "At this point we see a large number of potential environmental, social and operational benefits that would result from hydro power and related improvements. We also see economic benefits. Electricity sales would help pay for he costs of Metro Vancouver's water system."
Three years ago the Greater Vancouver Regional District's water supply completed a $600-million dollar upgrade at the Seymour-Capilano watersheds that included a 7-kilometre twin tunnel to transfer water from the Capilano reservoir east to a new filtration plant at Seymour. click here.