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Major refurbishment planned for historic Sir Adam Beck Power Canal

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.

The Sir Adam Beck Power Canal was built in 1921 and is part of a network of waterways that currently feed the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric complex.
The Sir Adam Beck Power Canal was built in 1921 and is part of a network of waterways that currently feed the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric complex.

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 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 continuing to help 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 Tony Palma, 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 were surveyed in March 2018.

Early expectations are that the canal may be drained in the summers of 2022 and 2023. The refurbishment work will involve concrete rehabilitation, grouting, stabilizing of rock slopes, vegetation management, 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. In 1981, work was conducted in the wet to dredge and remove 1,834 cubic metres of concrete rock and other debris. That effort helped recapture a portion of the reduced water flow to the Sir Adam Beck I station.

Over the years, the flow rate of water in the canal has gradually decreased to 580 cubic metres per second, a reduction of approximately seven per cent from design capacity.

“In addition to restoring the structural integrity of the canal, the goal is to convey water more efficiently and make future maintenance of the canal less burdensome,” said Palma. “Once the canal is restored to its design capacity, it will be available for optimal use at the Beck complex.”