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Heber River dam near Gold River removed, water flows on natural beds

Oct 11 2012
The dismantling of the Heber River dam this past summer. 

The dismantling of the Heber River dam this past summer.

Photograph by: B.C. Hydro

The old Heber River dam near Gold River is gone and water is running along natural riverbeds for the first time in more than half a century.

B.C. Hydro contracted out the job of dismantling the out-of-service dam to Quantum-Murray LP to return the area to its natural condition.

The 10-metre-high, 120-metre-long timber crib dam was built 53 years ago but was shut down in 2006. It had been constructed to divert water from the Heber River into the Campbell River system for hydroelectric power generation. Community consultation was part of the planning to take out the dam and restore the land.

This dismantling and remediation project reached a milestone on Sept. 14 when Hunter Creek and the Heber River were flowing on natural riverbeds, Stephen Watson, Hydro spokesman, said this week.

Remediation work is continuing and the total cost is expected to fall within the $15-million budget, he said.

The summer project had about 30-40 workers on site daily. About a third of the workers were from the Mowachaht Muchalaht First Nation in Gold River.

Contaminated soils, including an old 3.6-kilometre-long woodstave pipeline, were moved to the Catalyst site in Campbell River and will be taken to Richmond for disposal, Watson said.

Natural processes and succession are being used to control erosion and help soils recover. Woody debris salvaged from the site will be spread over these disturbed areas to help with restoration. It’s expected native plants such as alder, fireweed, willow and balsam poplar will seed naturally.

Areas disturbed during the project will be left in a “rough-and-loose” condition to encourage rain to filter into the ground, rather than flow over it, he said.

In late winter and early spring, live willow, balsam poplar and red-osier dogwood will be planted to further add to the rehabilitation of the site.

A video of the work and more information will be posted on Hydro’s website in late November.

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