Columbia Power Corporation (Columbia Power) and Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) share in the region's concern regarding environmental issues. For this reason, great care is taken in every stage of a project—from planning to completion and beyond. Working closely with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, and the Ministry of Environment, Columbia Power and CBT adhere to guidelines in assuring indigenous fish habitats are not adversely affected. Habitat improvement is sought and implemented following the principle of "no net loss of fish or fish habitat."
ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF PROJECTSAll of Columbia Power's projects make use of water that would otherwise be spilled over dams. Spilling water increases the amount of total gas pressure (TGP) in the downstream water which can cause "bubble trauma" in fish, a harmful condition similar to the "bends" in human scuba divers. By passing water through a turbine instead of spilling, TGP levels are reduced, thus improving fish and aquatic habitat downstream and minimizing the impacts of the dams overall.
Another environmental benefit of the projects is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike fossil fuel burning power plants, power generated by water produces no greenhouse gas emissions. In total, Columbia Power's projects offset a combined estimate of 1,500,000 tonnes per year of climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise arise from burning fossil fuel.
A number of Columbia Power's facilities employ Kaplan turbines to generate electricity. These "fish-friendly" turbines differ from other kinds of turbines in being propeller shaped and having adjustable blades. This design minimizes the impacts on local fish species.
Because of the environmental benefits of Columbia Power's projects, they are classified as "clean, green" power.
PARTNERSTo reflect Columbia Power's commitment to the environment, memberships are held in various local and regional environmental groups. These groups are:
Columbia River Integrated Environmental Monitoring Program (CRIEMP)
The Columbia River Integrated Environmental Monitoring Program works with its partners and communities to monitor and report on the health of the Columbia River, in an effort to balance the social and economic benefits of the river with the importance of protecting its ecosystem.
Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (UCWSRI)
The Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative began in 2000 with an agreement signed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, BC Environment, BC Fisheries and BC Hydro. The Initiative brings the combined interests of government, aboriginal, industry, environmental groups, and others to the challenge of building a future for this endangered species in the upper Columbia River in British Columbia and down into the United States.
Central Kootenay Invasive Plant Committee
Columbia Power sponsors the Central Kootenay Invasive Plant Committee in their efforts to raise awareness and educate the public in recognizing invasive plant species and the harm that they can do to our environment.
Transboundary Gas Group
Columbia Power is a member of the Transboundary Gas Group (TGG), an international organization that has been meeting since 1998 in an effort to help coordinate Columbia Basin dissolved gas planning activities between Canada, the US, provincial, state and federal agencies, tribes, First Nations, and other organizations.
The TGG meets twice a year, alternating between US and Canadian venues, to discuss the latest developments and issues in dissolved gas monitoring in an effort to reduce system-wide total dissolved gas to levels safe for all aquatic life in the most cost-effective manner possible.
Columbia Operations Fisheries Advisory Committee
The Columbia Operations Fisheries Advisory Committee was established in 1994 as a structured forum for the exchange of information pertaining to the coordination of activities related to the operation of hydro projects on the Columbia River system in Canada and associated fisheries issues.
WHITE STURGEONColumbia Power takes the protection of white sturgeon seriously. This species has been in existence for millions of years and predates the dinosaurs. During the Brilliant Expansion Project application stage, it was recognized that care must be taken to protect the species, which are listed as endangered under the federal government's Species at Risk Act. As the upper Columbia River is a known habitat for white sturgeon, research was undertaken to determine how the fish used the area adjacent to the proposed construction site.
Part of this research involved the installation of a series of underwater video cameras in the spillway plunge pool of the Brilliant Dam to identify effects of construction on sturgeon behaviour patterns. The information obtained from the research was used to identify construction activities that posed the greatest risks to white sturgeon, and Environmental Management Plans were then developed that incorporated actions to mitigate these risks. Cameras are still employed at the facility to ensure that sturgeon are protected.
Research and monitoring of sturgeon ecology is ongoing. It is Columbia Power's goal to better understand the biodynamics of this sensitive species in an effort to safeguard the species. The same level of due diligence is taking place as Columbia Power moves forward with the Waneta Expansion project.
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENTColumbia Power's projects are classified as reviewable under the BC Environmental Assessment Act (the Act). The BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) reviews all projects, as required under the Act, for any potentially adverse environmental, social, health, economic and heritage effects that may occur during the lifetime of the project.
The review process involves community consultation with all stakeholders including local governments, landowners, special interest groups, and First Nations groups. Proponents are also required to submit detailed technical reports on any potential adverse effects of the proposed project and strategies to prevent or reduce adverse effects. A comprehensive final report detailing all findings is then presented to the EAO, where it is scrutinized prior to a final decision being made.
An environmental assessment certificate, if issued at the conclusion of the review process, indicates the BC government's approval in principal and allows the proponent to apply for any other statutory authorizations required for the project. Once a project is underway it is subject to ongoing operations management to ensure that it is undertaken in compliance with the various approval conditions and that it complies with all relevant provincial laws and regulations. To ensure that these conditions are met, continuous assessment and monitoring is undertaken throughout project construction.