BEAVER COVE—The North Island’s status as a producer of renewable energy got a boost this week when the Kokish River Hydroelectric Project began producing power for B.C.’s electrical grid.
The project has undergone thorough initial testing, and has met all requirements necessary to commence commercial operation under its Energy Purchase Agreement with BC Hydro, the project partners announced Monday.
It becomes the second major North Island power project to go on line within the last year, following completion and connection of Phase I of the Cape Scott Wind Farm.
The $200 million Kokish River project, a run-of-river independent power project (IPP), is owned and managed by Kwagis Power, a limited partnership of Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners and the ‘Namgis First Nation. It is located on northeastern Vancouver Island near Telegraph Cove, within ‘Namgis core territory. With an installed capacity of 45 megawatts, the project will generate enough clean renewable energy annually to power close to 13,000 homes.
“Brookfield is delighted to announce the completion of the Kokish River project and would like to thank our partners, the ‘Namgis First Nation, as well as our employees, contractors and neighbours for their efforts and support during construction and towards the achievement of this important milestone,” said Richard Legault, President and Chief Executive Officer of Brookfield Renewable.
Brookfield Renewable has developed the project, and will manage its operations and maintenance. The ‘Namgis have participated in decision making, with a focus on environmental safeguards and monitoring. The partnership will continue to contribute to environmental monitoring and will help train ‘Namgis members to take advantage of Kwagis employment opportunities.
The ‘Namgis Nation, which turned down an earlier run-of-river proposal a decade earlier due to environmental concerns, chose to partner with Brookfield Renewable after conducting a rigorous due diligence review. The decision was ratified by a community vote.
“The Kokish has been an industrial river for more than 100 years, and its fish have paid the price,” says ‘Namgis Chief Bill Cranmer. “Already, this project has undone some of the historic industrial damage. We are confident that it will continue to improve the Kokish River watershed, while allowing ‘Namgis to share in benefits generated from within our territory. We are grateful to have found in Brookfield a partner who will help us achieve this.”
At the time of its announcement, the decision drew the ire of critics who claimed the project would harm wild salmon runs and fail to deliver the amount of power estimated. During his team’s run to the 2012 Stanley Cup championship, Port McNeill-raised NHL player Willie Mitchell embarked on a public campaign to preserve the river he fished on as a youth, and long-time volunteers with the nearby Kokish Fish Hatchery have expressed concern for potential impacts on the river’s salmon and steelhead runs.
But Kwagis Power says when river levels fall below the threshold needed to protect fish and fish habitat, no water will be diverted to the 9.2-kilometre penstock. And, in recognition of the Kokish’s popularity as a destination among whitewater enthusiasts, it has designated potential paddling days over a series of weekends, starting on May Long Weekend, during which river flow will be left at natural levels from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Recreational users must request a designated paddling day by calling 250-928-3192.
A low-diversion weir and intake are located on the Kokish River below Ida Lake. It takes in water when the river flow exceeds levels needed to protect fish and fish habitats. All other water and sediment passes over the weir and remains in the river. A fish ladder will help migrating fish to swim upstream. Additional infrastructure includes a powerhouse and switchyard, and a 138 kV, half-kilometre-long transmission line connecting the powerhouse to the BC Hydro grid.
More information on the Kokish River Hydroelectric Project is available at www.kokishriver.com/ and through the ‘Namgis website at www.namgis.bc.ca/Kokish/Pages/default.aspx.