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Hugh Keenleyside Dam


Hugh Keenleyside Dam
Completed: 1968
Operator: BC Hydro
Type: Water storage, Earth and concrete structure


A combination of concrete structure and earth-filled dam, Hugh Keenleyside Dam is one of the most controversial dams built in the region. The 230 km long valley upstream of the dam was once home to prime agricultural land that is now seasonally underwater. Prior to its flooding, the valley formed two distinct lakes joined by a waterway that was challenging for navigation, although provided important habitat for fish, known as the Narrows. The dam flooded farms, towns and villages all the way north to Revelstoke. Some areas are covered by only 0.6 to 1.8 metres (2 to 6 feet) of water when the reservoir is at full pool. The decision to construct the dam was made by Federal and Provincial agreements without meaningful local consultation and resulted in the displacement of over 2000 people. Archeological sites of the Arrow Lakes Indians were also destroyed.

Originally known as the High Arrow Dam and renamed in 1969 after the co-chairman of BC Hydro, it was completed in 1968. The second of the three Columbia River Treaty Dams, it was completed six months ahead of schedule. Built to control water levels downstream for power production at the Grand Coulee dam in Washington State and for flood control in both Canada and the U.S, it contained no power generation facilities, though it did provide a lock to allow both industrial and recreational boat access through the dam.

In 1999, the Columbia Power Corporation (a crown corporation owned and controlled by the Province of BC) with its partner the Columbia Basin Trust began to construct the Arrow Lakes Generating Station, two-turbine powerhouse immediately downstream of Hugh Keenleyside Dam. Completed in 2002, the station produces up to 185 Megawatts, using the water previously allowed to spill over the dam during high-water levels.

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