BC Hydro has announced it plans to decommission the Wilsey Dam and Shuswap Falls Powerhouse on the Shuswap River to allow salmon access to historical spawning habitat in the river.

The Wilsey Dam and Shuswap Falls facility was built in 1929 and represents less than 0.1% of the Canadian utility’s total hydroelectric generating capacity. BC Hydro explored two options to restore fish passage in the area. The first option included refurbishing the aging facility and constructing a fishway channel. The second option was decommissioning the facility entirely.

After careful consideration and working closely with Indigenous groups and stakeholders to better understand their perspectives and input, BC Hydro said it has selected decommissioning the dam and powerhouse as the leading alternative.

“Decommissioning instead of refurbishing will return that portion of the river to its original channel,” said Jen Walker-Larsen, Community Engagement Advisor, BC Hydro. “We expect this will provide a higher chance of achieving successful fish passage as it will create river conditions similar to what existed before the dam was built.”

BC Hydro will advance planning for decommissioning and prepare an application to the BC Utilities Commission to obtain approval to cease operations at the facility. BC Hydro expects to complete both of these items within the next 12 to 18 months.