Hydro in the Rockies

Our first night in Vancouver, we stayed just south of the Fraser River. Of course, Matthew Evenden has written a book describing how a dam was not imposed on the Fraser because of salmon and development on the Columbia. We also spent some time at Stanley Park – thought not directly connected to hydro-electric history, the park is the subject of a new book by Sean Kheraj.

Speaking of the Columbia River, we arrived in the town of Nakusp after spending a day in the Okanaga. Nakusp was the largest community affected by the flooding in the Arrow Lakes, dammed in the 1960s and 1970s to form storage reservoirsfor transborder hydro-electric development on the Columbia. Along with a number of classic works (e.g. Waterfield, Swainson, Wilson, and of course White) Tina Loo has written a fantastic article, and I’m currently reading a recent edited collection on transboundary river governance: The Columbia River Treaty Revisited: Transboundary River Governance in the Face of Uncertainty.


The previous photo shows the site of Burton, one of the towns lost to the flooding, while Nakusp (next two photos) lost its waterfront. The Arrow Lakes were enlarged by several dams, and a power dam was later installed just north of Revelstoke.


ALHS_Nakusp_rl copy DSC_0005

Traveling further east to Banff, interested observers should pick up one of two books released in the last few years: Armstrong, Evenden, and Nelles’s book on the Bow River, or a book by two of the three same authors Armstrong on hydro-electric development within Banff national park specifically. Adjoining pictures show an aerial view of Banff (with the Bow running through it), Bow Falls, and Lake Minnewanka, which was transformed into a storage reservoir.




Though the Bow and Fraser have received definitive histories, one could make a strong case that the Columbia is still in need of a new book-length study that incorporates the human, political, transnational, borderlands, and borderlands elements.* Such a history is even more pertinent since the deadline for renegotiating the treaty is drawing near (either country has to give 10-years notice prior to 2024).

*After originally posting this, I was made aware of Meg Stanley’s book, Voices from Two Rivers, which I erroneously thought was only a collection of interviews.

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