Good Example Of Research Paper On Revelstoke Dam Construction: A Look At The 5th Generation Unit
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Summary and Introduction
The Revelstoke Dam or what is more popularly known among the Canadian locals as the Revelstoke Canyon Dam is a man-made water reservoir that sits atop the Revelstoke Canyon. The main reason behind the development of the Dam is for hydroelectric purposes. When it comes to the dimensions of the reservoir, it spans the entire length of the Columbia River which is roughly around five kilometers. It is located in Revelstoke, British Columbia in Canada. Currently, it has five powerhouses or generating units with each unit generating roughly 500 Megawatts of electrical power.
The first powerhouse or generating unit got finished and went online in 1984 while the fifth generating unit in 2011. News and public affairs resources suggest that according to BC Hydro, the electric company that owns, operates, and heads future developments in the Dam, a sixth hydroelectric turbine power generating unit will be developed with a target date of completion and start of operations by the fourth quarter of 2019 . The objective of this paper is to discuss the different environmental effects of the development of the most recently opened generation unit (the fifth powerhouse) of the Revelstoke Canyon Dam.
Aside from the massive amount of electricity generated by the Dam’s five hydroelectric generation units, the construction of the Dam was also intended to provide the local government control over the flow of water in the rivers and during events of heavy rainfall, prevent massive flooding in the lowlands .
Statement of the Problem and Discussions
The problem that will be addressed in this paper would be the environmental impacts that may come as a result or the construction and continuous operation of the Revelstoke Dam, particularly the fifth power generation unit which only started its operations along with the prior four power generation units in 2011. There are numerous environmental consequences of the construction and operation of large dams and the type and severity of these consequences vary (e.g. biological, chemical, and geological).
When it comes to biological effects, for example, local biologists on the locations of previously constructed dams in other countries have concluded in their analyses that the construction of large dams, particularly the division that its large walls create and separate natural bodies of water disables local fish migrations. One of the direct results of this man-made phenomenon would be the inability of some local fish species to procreate, find food, or do the normal things that they do to survive—there are some fish species that have separate habitats, spawning areas, and rearing areas. Aside from trapping and isolating marine creature species into a single area as a result of the construction of the walls, a significant portion of river sediments also gets stuck within the dam area.
Normally, these river sediments flow freely downstream. All in all, biologists and environmentalists believe that “the alteration of a river’s flow and sediment transport downstream of a dam often cause the greatest sustained environmental impacts” ; like the extinction of local fish population and significant reductions in the water conditions within the damned parts of the river.
The principle that most environmentalists follow is that the larger the portion of the river that is damned, the larger its effects on the environment would be . In the case of the Revelstoke Dam, it covers almost the entire length of the Columbia River which is a whooping five kilometer stretch of a supposedly freely flowing body of water. Hence, if we follow that principle, we can only assume that its effects on the natural flow of river water and sediments and on the natural migration of fish and marine species covering the entire length of the river would be heavily disrupted.
Another direct impact of the construction of the fifth hydroelectric power generation unit was the additional loss of arable land near the riverbank area. Whenever dams are constructed, there is a space of land that should remain un-flooded so that during the rainy season, the water would have somewhere to go. In the case of Revelstoke Dam, these back-up reservoir space (which has been constructed to increase the water holding capacity of the Dam and make it more effective in controlling floods), were either used as agricultural land or left alone as a forest because according to estimates, it serves (used to) as the habitat of thousands of animals such as deer, elks, moose, bears, ducks and geese, and other land animals .
Apart from the displacement or rather destruction of the natural habitat of the thousands of animals that used to live in the area, the people who used to farm the arable land surrounding the rivers also lost their livelihood. Moreover, the trees that used to scatter around the riverbank area were also cut in order to give way for the construction of the walls and other man-made structures needed for the dam. In a news report published years after the construction of the Revelstoke Dam started, it was revealed that a few years before the erection of the walls and other structures began, more than 27,000 acres of timber were logged along the Columbia River in order to give way to the new flood plain .
Essentially, all forms of vegetation were slashed off the Columbian riverbank just to give way for the expansion of the water holding capacity of the Revelstoke Dam. Unfortunately, the BC Hydro and its partners did not provide any accountability assessment on the total value of the flooded forest land prior and even after the construction of the Revelstoke Dam.
Another thing that most environmentalists argue is that the creation of one environmental problem can trigger the creation of a new one. In this case, the slashing of vegetation in the previous riverbank area could lead to the deterioration of the stability of the soil that holds the pieces of land together. The trees were basically holding the plots of land so that soil erosion could be prevented. Unfortunately, that natural mechanism has been long gone and now, during wet periods (whenever the dam gets filled with water to the point that it reaches the flood plain area or what was previously the riverbank area), these areas turn into nothing but a vast area of mud flats .
In summary, it can be concluded that the environmental effects of the construction of the fifth power generation unit of the Revelstoke Dam or from a larger scope, the construction of the Dam itself, comes with a lot of environmental consequences such as the loss of the ability of the marine species to travel from one point of the Columbia river to another thereby disabling some species to procreate; the disruption in the flow of river water and sediments; the destruction of the natural habitat of thousands of animals such as deer, elks, moose, bears, and ducks and geese among others; the huge deforestation that happened a few years prior to the construction of the dam structures; and the loss in the stability of the soil that holds the land plots together as a mechanism to prevent soil erosion. Also, it can be concluded that one environmental consequence of construction activities in the dam could lead to another, creating a chain reaction of environmental problems as in the case of the soil erosion problem discussed earlier.
BC Hydro. "Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre." BC Hydro For Generations (2015).
Cooper, A. "BC Hydro Looking at Sixth Turbine for Revelstoke Dam." Revelstoke Times Review (2013).
International Rivers. "Environmental Impacts of Dams." internatinoalrivers.org (2015).
Poole, M. "Sunday Best: The Columbia River Treaty Documentary." British Columbia Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (n.d.).
Rosenberg, D., P. McCully and C. Pringle. "Global-Scale Environmental Effects of Hyrological Alterations: Introduction." BioScience (2000).
Stanley, M. "Voices from Two Rivers: Harnessing the Power of Peace and Columbia." Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre (2011).
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