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Upper Bonnington Dam


Upper Bonnington Dam
Completed: 1907
Operator: West Kootenay Power and Light (FortisBC)
Type: Concrete gravity run of river


Upper Bonnington is joined to the Nelson Power Plant by a horseshoe shaped cofferdam, that directs river water toward the intakes of both plants. The area below the cofferdam is dry when the water level is low, but in the spring when the largest amount of snow is melting it is a turbulent display of whitewater cascading over the rocks below.

Construction began on the dam in 1905 to meet the rising need for power in the Boundary at the mines and smelters in Greenwood and Grand Forks. When it was completed in 1907 it was the single largest piece of concrete construction in BC in 1907. It had two Francis turbines, an operating head of 21 m. (70 ft.) and two generators.

The location of the Nelson Power Plant directly across the river was not without controversy. When the City of Nelson began initiating plans to construct the power plant, where they had established water rights in 1901, Lorne Campbell filed a mineral claim on the site of the powerhouse. He did not want the competition on the Kootenay River or to lose the business that West Kootenay Power had with the streetcar and smelter in Nelson. The following legal battle was won by the City of Nelson, but Campbell was able to scare away potential investors until the spring of 1905 Mayor and developer John Houston was able to acquire the money and construction began until the next court case was launched.

A third generating unit was installed in 1914 and a fourth in 1916. Two more turbines were installed in 1938.

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Upper Bonnington Dam
Upper Bonnington Dam

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Upper Bonnington Dam
Upper Bonnington Dam

West Kootenay Power Plant at Upper Bonnington Falls
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