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Planning begins for major refurb of historic Sir Adam Beck Power Canal

 Planning begins for major refurb of historic Sir Adam Beck Power Canal

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A century after it was built, the historic Sir Adam Beck Power Canal that channels water to OPG’s nearby hydroelectric generating stations will soon be undergoing a major refurbishment that will add another 50 years of operating life.

Carved through the City of Niagara Falls, the 13.7-kilometre Power Canal was built in 1921 and is part of a network of waterways that currently feed the Sir Adam Beck complex. The canal, along with three underground tunnels, convey water from the Welland and Niagara rivers to the Sir Adam Beck I and II generating stations (GS) and the Sir Adam Beck Pump GS. All of these waterways intersect at a crossover point, approximately one kilometre west of the Beck complex.

The Sir Adam Beck Power Canal runs 13.7 kilometres through the City of Niagara Falls.
The Sir Adam Beck Power Canal runs 13.7 KM through the City of Niagara Falls.

​The power canal, originally called the Queenston-Chippawa Power Canal, was designed to serve all 10 units at Sir Adam Beck I GS, which went into service between 1922 and 1930.

The refurbishment will repair the canal and improve its performance. This will ensure the nearly century-old asset delivers water more efficiently for decades to come, thus helping produce low-cost, clean hydroelectric power for Ontario. The project is expected to be completed over the next five years.

“This work will preserve the structural integrity of the canal and clear debris to restore and improve water flow,” said Mark Armstrong, Project Manager with OPG. “Assessment work has already started in preparation for the refurbishment.”

In 2017, surveying was conducted at different sections of the canal using an Un-staffed Survey Vehicle (USV) equipped with cameras, sonar, and laser scanning tools. Using the latest technology, data was gathered by the USV and applied to create a model of the current canal condition, indicating the position and size of objects and structures in and above the water. The remaining sections of the canal will be surveyed by mid-2018.

Early expectations are that the canal may need to be drained in the summers of 2021 and 2022. The refurbishment work will involve concrete rehabilitation, grouting, stabilizing rock slopes, and removing debris collected over the years at the bottom of the canal.

The channel last saw a major overhaul in the 1960s, when it was taken out of service to be widened and deepened to increase flow capacity. Then in 1981, work was conducted to dredge and remove 1,834 cubic meters of concrete rock and other debris. That effort helped increase the water flow to the Sir Adam Beck I station by five per cent.

Since then, the flow rate of water in the canal has gradually slowed from 617 cubic metres per second to 549 cubic metres per second. “In addition to restoring the structural integrity of the canal, the goal is to convey water more efficiently,” said Armstrong. “Once the canal is restored to its design capacity, it will be available for optimal use at the Beck complex.”

Several other projects will be undertaken in conjunction with the Power Canal refurbishment, including a frequency conversion overhaul of the G1 and G2 units at Sir Adam Beck I.