With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, the port city of
Vancouver, British Columbia, was linked to the farming country of the Canadian
prairies and the eastern industrial and population centers. Like the major
transcontinental railroads in the United States, the completion of the Canadian
Pacific was an act of linking tracks that had been building toward each other
from the east and west. The final spike was driven at remote Craigellatchie, a
short distance west of the Columbia River city of Revelstoke.
a few years Vancouver was booming. On August 8, 1887, the Vancouver Electric
Illumination Society switched on its steam-powered generating plant at the
corner of Abbott and Hastings in downtown Vancouver. Three hundred street lamps
winked on, and 53 homes had electricity for lights. In 1961 the province took
over B.C. Electric and its Peace River subsidiary. In 1962 the company was
merged with the B.C. Power Commission, which the province formed in 1945. The merged
entity was renamed the British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority and came to
be known as BC Hydro. Over time the company grew to become the largest
electricity generation and transmission utility in the province and played an
important role in the creation of the Columbia
River Treaty and the
development of the intertie of high-voltage transmission lines
between the Northwest and Southwest regions of the United States .
Hydro is a crown corporation, officially a division of the government of the
province. The utility gets nearly 90 percent of its electricity from
hydroelectric dams — it owns and operates 32 in the province — and most of
these are in two river basins, that of the Peace River in the northern part of
the province and the Columbia River Basin. B.C. Hydro’s dams in the Columbia
Basin include Mica, Revelstoke and Keenleyside on the mainstem river, Duncan on
the Duncan river, which flows into the north end of Kootenay Lake, and several
smaller dams on tributaries, including Spillmacheen on the river of the same
name near Golden, Aberfeldie on the Kootenay River near Cranbrook, and
Sevenmile on the Pend Oreille River east of Trail.
Hydro serves 1.6 million customers, or about 94 percent of the population of
the province, and also operates 44,640 miles (72,000 kilometers) of
transmission and distribution lines.