How Hydropower Is Generated
Hydropower is produced from the energy of falling water as it flows through a turbine. Hydropower generating stations are built on rivers where there is a natural drop in elevation or alongside dams, which create a reservoir of stored water that can be released according to power demand. By controlling the volume of water and the elevation at which it falls, dams can increase the amount of power that is generated. Water from the upper elevation, or “forebay,” flows down a pipe called a “penstock,” and hits the blades of a turbine, causing it to turn. The turbine is connected to a generator by a drive shaft. As the generator spins, magnets inside move past copper coils, stimulating electrons to create an alternating current (AC) of electricity. Power lines convey the electricity to a substation, where the electrical energy is transformed to a higher AC voltage (HVAC) for long-distance transmission to faraway markets. The HVAC is transformed back to lower voltage AC before reaching its final destination in the homes and businesses of consumers.
Columbia Basin Trust Act
Columbia Basin Trust was officially established in 1995 through the passing of the Columbia Basin Trust Act. The Act is the document by which the Trust is governed, and defines the organization’s purpose, structure and relationship to government. The Trust is mandated to invest, spend and manage its assets for the ongoing social, economic and environmental benefit of the region. This does not relieve government from its obligations to the region, but instead creates a relationship between the Trust and the Province of British Columbia in which the Trust operates similarly to a Crown corporation. The Act grants the Trust an unprecedented amount of autonomy, giving those who call the Basin home control over their own future.
Columbia Power Corporation
Columbia Power Corporation is the Trust’s partner on hydropower projects. The Province created Columbia Power in April 1994; its purpose was to hold the expansion rights to Brilliant and Waneta dams, which the Province purchased from Cominco in the same year. When Columbia Basin Trust was created the following year, Columbia Power was appointed to represent the Province in its partnership with the Trust. The Columbia Basin Accord gave them equal ownership over three hydropower assets: Arrow Lakes Generating Station, Brilliant Expansion and Waneta Expansion. They obtained a fourth asset, Brilliant Dam, in 1996. Columbia Power is tasked with developing, managing and operating these facilities.
Columbia Basin Trust and Columbia Power Corporation share equal ownership in four hydropower facilities in the Basin: Arrow Lakes Generating Station, Brilliant Expansion and Waneta Expansion. The partners acquired a fourth asset, Brilliant Dam, in 1996. Developed, constructed and completed over two decades, these projects generated hundreds of jobs and injected millions of dollars into their home communities. They continue to provide the Trust with a sustained source of revenue to enrich the lives of people in the Basin.
Brilliant Dam and Generating Station
Purchased: 1996 The Trust and Columbia Power purchased Brilliant Dam from mining corporation Cominco for $130 million. Although not part of their original asset agreement, the dam had potential revenues that made the investment more than worthwhile. Since purchasing the dam, the partners have invested $100 million in upgrades and repairs, transforming what was once a 125-megawatt station into one capable of producing 140 megawatts of energy.
Arrow Lakes Generating Station
Constructed: 1999 to 2002 This was the first project that the Trust and Columbia Power developed. Located near Castlegar on the Columbia River, the generating station takes advantage of water spilled by Hugh Keenleyside Dam. It has the capacity to generate up to 185 megawatts of electricity. Despite some costly repairs and setbacks during its first few years of operation, it provided a successful modelfor subsequent hydropower projects and received several technical and environmental awards. Over 80 per cent of the workers hired to construct the facility lived within 100 kilometres of Castlegar, and at peak construction the project employed up to 400 workers.
Brilliant Expansion Generating Station
Constructed: 2003 to 2007 Brilliant Expansion is the smallest of the Trust and Columbia Power’s four hydropower facilities, located on the Kootenay River near Castlegar. The project constructed a single-turbine powerhouse below Brilliant Dam. Eighty-five per cent of workers employed during the construction phase were local, and these wages injected an estimated $50 million into the local economy. The facility can generate up to 120 megawatts of electricity.
Waneta Expansion Generating Station
Constructed: 2010 to 2015 The fourth and final project the Trust and Columbia Power developed was Waneta Expansion. This involved adding a second powerhouse adjacent to Waneta Dam on the Pend d’Oreille River and a new transmission line that would deliver electricity to BC Hydro’s Selkirk Substation, 10 kilometres northeast of the dam. Waneta required an unprecedented investment by the partners along with a third partner, Fortis Inc., which assumed 51 per cent ownership. Not only did Fortis contribute much-needed funds and expertise to the $900-million project, but it agreed to purchase surplus power not required by BC Hydro, ensuring the project was profitable enough to make the partners’ investments worthwhile. In 2019, the Trust and Columbia Power bought back Fortis’s shares in Waneta Expansion, successfully cementing their full and joint ownership over all four of their hydropower assets.
In the 1990s, Cranbrook resident Endre Lillejord was struggling to find a home for his mother, Ivy. He was disappointed to discover that housing options were scarce for seniors who, like Ivy, needed some assistance but were still largely independent. Lillejord quickly realized his family was not alone: seniors and families across the Basin were looking for alternatives to institutional care. Lillejord decided to take matters into his own hands.
Lillejord founded his own company, Golden Life Management, to design, build and operate seniors’ housing. Golden Life envisioned a supportive, affordable housing model that emulated “the old adage that it takes a village to care.”31 The facilities were aptly named “villages,” and the first, Joseph Creek Village, opened in Cranbrook in 1998 with Ivy Lillejord as one of the first residents. “When you walk through the halls of the village, you’re surrounded by friends and families, and everyone has a goal of ensuring that you have the supports and services in place to live your best quality of life,” said Celeste Mullin, Lillejord’s daughter and Golden Life Vice President of Corporate Business. To maintain and improve these supports, Golden Life saw a real benefit in “finding a strategic partner that we could align with that brought credibility to our seniors’ development, enhanced our brand, was financially strong, and who was really well-integrated within the communities.” That strategic partner was the Trust. Endre Lillejord reached out to the Trust to discuss a possible collaboration, recognizing that the two organizations shared the value of promoting quality of life for the people of the Basin. The Trust agreed and, in September 2001, committed $1.3 million for Golden Life’s second housing project, Castle Wood Village. The first of its kind in the West Kootenay, the Castlegar facility
featured 77 suites, as well as a games room, exercise room, library, beauty salon and barbershop and craft and hobby areas.32 Celeste Mullin credits the partnership’s success to respect, open communication and a willingness to learn and evolve. In 2006, for example, Golden Life approached the Trust about providing additional assistance for low-income seniors. Together they established an innovative grant program for seniors who might otherwise be unable to pay the market rent at Golden Life’s villages; instead, individuals pay 70 per cent of their incomes in exchange for rent, housekeeping and meals. Mullin sees this program as “a great example of how we’ve met our collective goal of ensuring that people in the Basin have great quality of life, and ensuring that all Basin residents, regardless of their financial resources, have the access to appropriate and affordable housing and services.”33 Golden Life and the Trust continue to collaborate. Eight of Golden Life’s 17 villages have been completed with the Trust’s support, in the Basin communities of Cranbrook, Castlegar, Creston, Fernie, Fruitvale, Invermere, Kimberley and Nelson.
Located in the community of aqam, just outside Cranbrook, St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino is owned and operated by the Ktunaxa Nation. The resort lies at the end of Mission Road and is set against a backdrop of tall mountains and the blue waters of St. Mary River. Surrounded by manicured lawns and colourful gardens, the scene stands in stark contrast to the one First Nations children witnessed when St. Eugene was used as a residential school operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1912 to 1970.
St. Eugene Mission was founded in 1873 by the Oblate Order. In the 1890s, a large Catholic church was constructed, as well as a residential school. The original school was replaced by the present St. Eugene structure in 1912.
The final bend along Mission Road was known to these children as Crying Corner, revealing not a holiday destination but an imposing, 55-foot-tall concrete structure where, far from their homes and families, over 5,000 children from the Ktunaxa, Okanagan, Shuswap and Blackfoot nations had their culture and childhood deliberately and violently stolen from them.54 One of these children was Sophie Pierre, who spent nine years at St. Eugene, beginning at age six. Pierre grew up to become a Nasuʔkin (Chief) of the Ktunaxa Nation and a major advocate of the St. Eugene project. The idea to transform St. Eugene into a resort arose gradually and with reluctance, Pierre recalled. After the school closed in 1970, an agreement between the Oblates and the federal government turned the building and the 327 acres of surrounding land over to the ʔaq’am community, whose children had been forced to attend the school. The building sat vacant for over 20 years, falling into disrepair while the Ktunaxa struggled to reconcile conflicting opinions about what to do with the site.
Some wanted to tear it down and destroy this physical symbol of trauma and abuse, while others, like Pierre, saw the potential to turn St. Eugene into something that would benefit the community and help its people heal from the painful legacy of residential schools.55 “Since it was within the St. Eugene Mission School that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within that building that it is returned,” Ktunaxa Elder Mary Paul stated.56 Her words became the cornerstone of the St. Eugene project and are now displayed on the walls of the resort. But Sophie Pierre remembered it took some time before the community understood exactly what their Elder meant: that transforming St. Eugene could help restore the cultural, social and economic order that had crumbled under the residential school system. The halls where children had had their hair cut and gone to bed hungry, where they had been punished for speaking their own language, and where they had suffered constant physical, sexual and emotional abuse — these were the places where the Ktunaxa would regain their culture and find healing.
Empowered by Elder Mary Paul’s words, the Ktunaxa Nation began the slow process of creating St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino. The golf course opened on schedule in 2000. The first year was a success, with Golf Digest rating it one of the top three Best New Canadian Courses in 2001. Behind the scenes, however, the project was falling into debt. The post-September 11, 2001, travel climate, inflated fuel prices, regional wildfires and outbreaks of SARS and the West Nile Virus all contributed to a downturn in visitors to the region.57 Decreased tourism meant lower earnings for St. Eugene, and the project struggled to build the planned addition to the hotel and casino. St. Eugene filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2003 in an attempt to restructure its finances and operations. But the Ktunaxa Nation persevered. In 2004, the St. Eugene project was saved from financial collapse through a partnership between the Ktunaxa, the Samson Cree Nation in Alberta and the Rama First Nation in Ontario.
It was the first time First Nations from across the country had partnered on such an initiative. It took several years, but the resort began to turn a profit. Helder Ponte of the Ktunaxa Nation Council agreed that, while there were significant obstacles, “as we went on, the will to finish the resort grew even stronger.”58 St. Eugene is a point of pride for its creators. Sophie Pierre declared that, somehow, “without two nickels to rub together,” the Ktunaxa and their partners “managed to put together a $40-million resort.” An RV park was added in 2017 and, in 2018, St. Eugene was the host hotel for the BC Seniors Games. The resort hosts writers’ conferences and partners with nearby wineries for wine tastings and festivals. St. Eugene employs between 200 to 300 people year-round. Pierre believes St. Eugene helped foster relationships between the Ktunaxa Nation and non-Indigenous organizations in the Basin and cemented the fact that “the Indigenous community is going to be involved now.”59
Darkwoods Conservation Area
For thousands of years, grizzly bears, mountain caribou, wolves and countless other wildlife species shared this land with First Nations. In 1897, they were joined by settlers when Nelson & Sheppard Railway acquired the land, and later by multiple forestry corporations. It was not until 1967— when it was purchased by German Duke Carl Herzog von Württemberg — that Darkwoods got its name, in reference to Germany’s Black Forest.