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Wilsey Dam Decommissioning Sought

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Salmon have been unable to access kilometers of historical spawning grounds since the Wilsey Dam was constructed on British Columbia's Shuswap river back in 1929.

BC Hydro recently announced they would like to decommission the Wilsey Dam and its 5.2-MW powerhouse located on the Shuswap River, rather than upgrade to the aging facility and build a fish ladder.

BC Hydros Plan to Remove the Wilsey Dam and Powerhouse Needs Approval First

Last year around this time BC hydro began making applications to the British Columbia Utilities Commission to obtain approval to cease operations at the facility. Wilsey Dam provides 0.1 percent of BC Hydros' generating capacity.

The BCUC should have a decision in the next several months. If the Wilsey dam is decommissioned it would mean salmon would regain an additional 32 kilometers of spawning habitat. Sounds like good news for the salmon.

BC Hydro says they came to the decision after consulting with indigenous and other local stakeholders.

The Splatsin First Nation, whose territory the dam is on, says that's not so.

The Splatsin First Nation is alleging a lack of consent, a disregard for territorial concerns, and a failure by BC Hydro to get “free, prior and informed consent”.

At the time of the announcement, Spatsin Chief Wayne Christian called the decision to decommission the dam “a complete disregard of BC Hydro’s mandate and our title and rights.”

“We made an offer to BC Hydro to acquire the dam and turn it into a run-of-the-river system to recover the salmon population and generate power and economic opportunities at the same time,”

View the Splatsin Press release here:

About the Wilsey Dam and Powerhouse, BC Hydro:

"The concrete dam was built at the site of the original 21-m-high Shuswap Falls, while the spillway channel was blasted through solid rock immediately to the north. Initially, the facility used only water available in the Shuswap River, without a storage reservoir (run-of-the-river). The Shuswap River flows powered this 4,000-hp generating unit. In 1942, a second dam was constructed at the outlet of Sugar Lake to create storage and increased generating potential. This new dam allowed for another 4000-hp generating unit at Shuswap Falls.".


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