Subsequently, Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. proposed the 100 MW Dunvegan hydroelectric project in the late 1990's near the Dunvegan Bridge. That project received regulatory approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Board in 2009. Shortly thereafter, Canadian Hydro Developers was acquired by TransAlta Corp. and the permit was eventually allowed to expire in 2015 given unfavorable market conditions.
The Amisk project has been designed to overcome the obstacles that prevented previously proposed hydroelectric projects in the area from being constructed. Geotechnical analysis of multiple sites along the river has conﬁrmed that this location has unique attributes that make it the only site that could support the proposed structure.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be completed by AHP Development Corporation (AHP) based on both provincial and federal review requirements. The intent of the EIA is to examine the environmental, social, economic and health impacts of the project, to provide mitigation plans to address any adverse impacts and to address the signiﬁcance of any residual impacts.
The Amisk facility would operate as run-of-river with potentially a limited extent of active storage. Run-of-River is a term used to describe hydroelectric facilities that do not have significant long-term storage (i.e. less than 48 hour retention time in the Headpond). The water level at the dam would be raised approximately 24 meters by the structure and river flows would pass through powerhouses equipped with turbine units to generate electricity, or released through a spillway during times of high water flow.
The headpond created by the structure would extend roughly 77 km upstream. A headpond is a slower and deeper section of water situated upstream that is created by the presence of the hydroelectric facility. The total inundation from the headpond would be approximately 800 hectares, which at 2 hectares per MW is relatively small as a result of the deeply incised valley along the reach of the river that will be impacted. As a comparison, the World Bank’s 2003 report “Good Dams and Bad Dams” estimated the average inundation from all hydroelectric projects around the world at 60 hectares per MW.
Upon completion of the EIA, AHP will make application to various provincial and federal agencies for the Project. At that point, the applicable board or Minister will decide whether it is in the public interest to let the Project go ahead. Approvals from regulators may set speciﬁc conditions under which the Project can be constructed and operated.
Hydroelectric projects have long been considered for the Dunvegan area on the Peace River. The Peace River, in general, is an attractive host for hydroelectric generation as flows are relatively uniform throughout the year. This is a result of BC Hydro regulating river flows with the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. Every year surplus spring and summer flows are stored in the Williston Reservoir further upstream by the W.A.C. Bennett Dam for release during the winter low flow period. The area around Dunvegan has been of particular focus because of the deeply incised river valley found at the proposed project location and upstream which helps to make the project layout more efficient and limit the extent of the inundation.
The Alberta government began investigating the potential for a very large hydroelectric facility (i.e. over 1,000 MW) in the Dunvegan area in the 1970s. Subsequent geotechnical investigations in the 1980s concluded that the bedrock would not support the construction of a facility of that size.
To generate the equivalent amount of electricity as the Amisk project with utility scale solar generation would require over 4,000 hectares of land.
The proposed design incorporates fish ladders to allow migratory fish passage and various options are being evaluated for boat transportation around the dam structure including boat lock, portage system, and boat launches upstream and downstream of the dam. The proposed site is located close to existing roads and electricity transmission.
Following regulatory approvals, the final design and construction could commence as early as 2022 and the Project could be operational as early as 2027.
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