Resource: “Green” Hydro Power: Understanding Impacts, Approvals, and Sustainability of Run-of-River Independent Power Projects in British Columbia

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Authors / Publisher: Tanis Douglas, for Watershed Watch Salmon Society

Date: August 2007

PDF: “Green” Hydro Power: Understanding Impacts, Approvals, and Sustainability of Run-of-River Independent Power Projects in British Columbia


Since 2002, the provincial government has required that new sources of electricity come from the private sector. The most popular type of power project now being developed is “run-of-river” hydropower. Large numbers of these projects are now being built and planned, province-wide. The rush for run-of-river power has prompted numerous questions—from anglers, kayakers, hunters, and other concerned citizens—about how run-of-river projects work, how they affect the environment, how the projects are approved and monitored, and how citizens’ input will be treated.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society recognized the need to answer some of the many questions being raised on run-of-river hydroelectric development in British Columbia. Three questions in particular stood out: 1) How are these projects assessed and approved? 2) What environmental impacts can we expect from these projects? and, 3) How can ordinary citizens provide effective feedback and ensure their concerns are heard?

Watershed Watch believes that informed citizens can play a significant role in determining how future energy supplies are responsibly developed in British Columbia. This document and the accompanying report Run-of-River Hydropower in BC: A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding Approvals, Impacts, and Sustainability of Independent Power Projects provide information and suggestions for both citizens and government to ensure run-of-river hydropower becomes a more sustainable option in the future. We also believe that careful scrutiny must be given to the available mix of renewable energy projects in BC, in order to maximize the benefits and minimize environmental and social costs. To that end, it is imperative that BC develop a strategic plan for run-of-river and other power projects throughout the province, a plan that will also see better coordination of approval processes and public input, and the continued development of effective monitoring programs.


The Habitat Conservation Trust Fund financed this document. Craig Orr of Watershed Watch Salmon Society saw the need to develop this project to provide non-experts with information to improve their ability to contribute to better-planned small hydropower projects in BC. Michael Harstone, Andrea Estergaard, various Ministry of Environment (Scott Babakaiff, Steve Rochetta, Ross Vennesland, Ron Ptolemy) and BC Hydro employees (Joanne McKenna) provided advice and information for this report. We also thank the Independent Power Producers Association of BC (IPPBC) and Scott Babakaiff and Steve Rochetta of the Ministry of Environment for excellent photographs, and Soren Henrich for his drawing of a ‘typical’ run-of-river project. Cover photo from Steve Rochetta.