A Hydroelectric Dam on the West Coast

A picture of one of the many fjords on the West Coast

The West Coast

The west coast of Canada is one of the most suitable and sensible places for a hydroelectric dam. The West Coast climate differs greatly on which side of the mountain ranges you are on. On the western side, there is so much precipitation that the forests are considered rainforests. Furthermore, the temperature over the course of the year does not have a very significant change because of its proximity to a large body of water. In contrast, on the east side of the mountain ranges the temperature changes a lot more over the year than on the east and it doesn't rain as much because of relief precipitation. This means that if the dam were to be built on the western side, there would never be a shortage of water for a reservoir because of the sheer amount of precipitation that would keep the dam running at full capacity most of the year. The landscape on the West Coast is very rocky and rugged. These features are further enhanced by the abundance of mountains and fjords. These feature can help improve the output of a dam, especially fjords. This is because, if you build a dam on a fjord the dam would be higher than if you built one on a normal river. This hight advantage would make water flow faster and turn the turbine in the dam with more force, thus producing more energy. The vegetation on the eastern side of the mountain ranges are naturally trees. This is partly because leaching from excessive amounts of  precipitation makes nutrients and minerals sink deeper underground. This makes it harder for smaller plants with shorter roots to grow as well as much larger trees. The West Coast is mostly made up of metamorphic rock in a series of rock "belts" made up of metamorphosed igneous and sedimentary rock that was formed from a collision with the North American plate. These rocks are the oldest in Canada and are millions to billions of years old. The area where we are looking to build the dam is on a certain part of B.C which is on the Coast Belt. This belt is made up of granite and other metamorphic rock which would provide a very strong foundation for this large commercial project.

A map of the major population centres and infranstructure of the West Coast

Human Activities

The West Coast of Canada offers many business opportunities to those who can to find them. For example, the West Coast is covered in lush thick forest which can be cut down and turned into high grade lumber. The ground in the West Coast holds many resources that can be mined, like large amounts of gold, silver and coal. While offshore there are large amounts of natural gas.  Moreover, there are many resources off the West Coast in the Pacific ocean like plentiful amounts of fish and a large amount of untapped crude oil. The location of the West Coast gives it a special opportunity which is maritime trade. The reason is because the West Coast is right next to the Pacific ocean which allows for large container ships to get Canadian products to the markets in Asia. It is also where much of the infrastructure on the west coast of Canada is which can transport large amounts of imports and exports in and out of Canada. This high amount of activity consumes large amounts of electricity which is mainly supplied with hydroelectricity from dams in British Columbia.

Climate Change on the Region

This is a satellite image of a storm system in B.C which shows the size of these storms

Climate change has and will continue to change and shape the culture and ecosystem of the West Coast of Canada. Climate change has a profound effect on the ecosystem. As the water gets warmer, it changes how the air forms and moves around in the region. This  air would warm up the West Coast which is directly beside a large body of water or it could form a storm system which could lead to large amounts of damage to property and the local infrastructure. This would impede the ability for electricity to get around since energy infrastructure would most likely get damaged. On the flip side, the warming of the earth would also cause an increase in evaporation which in turn will cause more precipitation in the already very wet climate. This would ensure that the dam would be operating at full energy output for most of the year. This is because the dam reservoir would be supplied by both the river and more frequent rainfall and any excess would be dumped with spillways. Unfortunately, if disasters caused by climate change increased in both volume and intensity, people would leave afflicted areas and travel inland. This negatively affects the profitability of the dam since demand for energy would go down as people and businesses move away.

Natural Disasters on the West Coast

On the West Coast there are two types of natural disasters that are most likely to happen in the area, flooding and earthquakes. Flooding in the B.C area is commonly caused by a combination of king tides, storm surges and heavy rainfall. Furthermore, the effects climate change are being seen as it steadily increases sea levels and the frequency of storms which cause storm surges. However, flooding is not a huge risk towards dams since there are systems in place to counteract this event.  Any excess water heading towards the dam can be diverted with the use of floodgates or spillways that would lower the water level behind the dam to a safe height.

In addition, earthquakes occur because of the West Coasts proximity to the fault line between the north american and pacific plate. Earthquakes are most commonly caused by the movement of two tectonic plates on each other which releases huge amount of energy which travels across the crust of the earth. More minor earthquakes can also be caused by artificial reservoirs made by dams. Earthquakes are a threat to the structural integrity of dams, but modern dams are designed to be able to resist against seismic shocks and are inherently able to stand against them. Some damage may be done however that may lead to some water flowing, but it is very unlikely that a catastrophic release of water will occur.


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