PLANT GROUP: Central Hydro Plant Group
DRAINAGE BASIN: Lake Huron
NEAREST POPULATION CENTRE: Meaford (16.1 KM (10 Miles) North)
IN SERVICE DATE:
UNITS 1-2 - November 15, 1915
UNIT 3 - March 1, 1920
ACQUIRED BY HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER COMMISSION OF ONTARIO: 1914
Asset Transferred to Ontario Power Generation: April 1, 1999
NUMBER OF UNITS: 3
The first settlers in the area began clearing land around 1850 and in the process, discovered a small river that had its source in numerous tamarack swamps and springs. The stream wound its way through the hills until it came to the edge of a nearby valley. Here the river hurled itself over a precipice to land in a pool 25 m (82 ft) below before roaring down to the bottom of the valley in a series of raging cataracts, a drop of 125 m (410 ft). Its energy spent, the river resumed its leisurely pace as it meandered through the valley. Both the river and the valley were soon named after the plentiful beaver in the area and the falls were named for the small village of Eugenia built beside them on the edge of the valley.
Practical-minded settlers soon put the river to good use and by 1870 no fewer than four different mills were doing various tasks along the upper reaches of the river.
It wasn't until 1890 that a local businessman, one William Hogg by name, decided to build his own power station on the Beaver river. Five years later, a small, square structure squatted over a canal beside the river, while a paddle wheel underneath turned the generator providing electricity to Eugenia and nearby Flesherton.
Hogg's station, however, generating perhaps 70 kw from a 6 m (20 ft) head of water was hard pressed to meet even the needs of just two small villages, but Hogg was unable to convince anybody (anybody with money) that the Beaver River could generate more electricity. He died around the turn of the century, his tiny power station still the only source of electricity on the river.
By the turn of the century, dozens of small companies with dreams of lucrative profits were buying the power rights to every possible site in the province. A small syndicate called the Georgian Bay Power Company was formed to purchase land and power rights above and below the falls along the Beaver River.
After examining the site, the company decided that to make the site economical, the power station would have to be built in the valley and water piped down to it from the river. Various sites could give a head of water between 60 m and 140 m (197 and 460 ft). Unfortunately, the nearest valley site had the lowest head and, therefore, generated less power, while the site with the best head was almost 2 km (1.2 miles) from the river. However, the idea was there so the Georgian Bay Power Company went in search of investors. Almost immediately, a wealthy magnate agreed to finance the project if an independent engineer agreed that the site had potential.
The chief engineer of one of the Niagara projects at the time was Hugh L. Cooper, and he was summoned from his Toronto office. Cooper arrived, made his inspection, returned to Toronto and submitted his report all on the same day. Perhaps accustomed to the awesome volume of the Niagara River, he must have been somewhat bemused by the plans for this quiet rural stream. His report, somewhat less than favourable, stated that an economical placement of the power station would only result in a head of 85 m (279 ft) enough to generate 500 kW. Besides the drainage basin was too small, the river was too small and the volume of the river shrank even further in the summer and winter.
Although Cooper went on to a brilliant career as chief engineer of several projects around the world including a British dam across the Nile, local historians still call his report, with a bit of local scorn, "the one great mistake" of his career.
Undaunted by this, the Georgian Bay Power Company still felt there were profits to be had from this site and hired a second engineer to revise their plans. However, as history shows, they missed their chance.
The Commission immediately bought the power rights from private companies at dozens of sites although relatively few of these were ever developed. The Eugenia site was one of these and was purchased from the hapless Georgian Bay Power Company. Engineers were dispatched to look over the new property and their reports were positive. Although the river was small, the power it could generate with a head of more than 150 m (492 ft) could be converted to more than 4500 kW. To control fluctuations in the river flow, a reservoir could be built at the top of the valley. From there, water would be piped 1600 m (5,250 ft) across country to the edge of the valley where it would snake down to a power station more than 120 m (394 ft) below.
The need for electricity in the area was also a factor. The concrete factories of Owen Sound and the busy shipyards of nearby Collingwood both bought extensive electricity from inefficient coal-fired stations. In addition, there were a dozen small towns in the area that had no source of electricity at all.
The site was both needed and economically feasible. Approval was granted and construction started in 1914.
The construction of the Eugenia Falls hydroelectric development was completed on November 18, 1915 by the official opening of the plant for service by Sir Adam Beck, the Commission's first Chairman. This was the second plant that the Commission had built. The first was Wasdell Falls (see Retried hydroelectric stations).
The Eugenia station has the highest head of all hydraulic stations.