When is a lake not a lake? When it’s been degraded into a reservoir for hydroelectric generation.
Last weekend my family and I went camping on the shores of Buttle Lake, a beautiful spot nestled in the middle of Strathcona Provincial Park. There, amid the towering peaks and old-growth forests we had a great respite from our everyday tasks and concerns. However, immediately after we left the campground for the beach, it became apparent that all was not perfect in this mountain paradise.
Buttle Lake, along with Upper Campbell Lake, became a reservoir when BC Hydro created the Strathcona Dam in the late 1950’s. The dam flooded almost 3200 hectares around the lakes and dramatically altered the shoreline. This summer, with water levels near historic lows, the shoreline was a long way from where it usually is, leaving a barren strip up to 100m wide and 6m high all around the lake.
All of this makes me wonder if people understand the true cost of the energy they use, which doesn’t appear on their monthly hydro statements. Here in BC, we’re lulled into thinking that we have the greenest electricity on the planet. Given that most of it is produced by “legacy” assets, few of us have had to witness the transformation of a pristine valley into an industrial water storage facility. Yet, nothing comes without a cost. Fluctuating lake levels create erosion, vast tracts of submerged stumps and a biological dead zone where little can grow, like a vast bathtub ring around the lake.
So, if you fill your home with small phantom loads – drawing power 24/7 for computers, TV’s or coffee makers – or go out and leave all your lights on, or if you build a home that’s not making the best use of the energy to heat and light it, remember the valleys that have been flooded to make the cheap and abundant power we take for granted.
We need to do more to honour our natural resources. A great place to start if you’d like to do something is BC Hydro’s Powersmart program: https://www.bchydro.com/powersmart/residential/guides_tips/green-your-home.html