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Testing at controversial Bala hydro project begins as construction wraps up
After nearly two years of construction, the Bala Falls hydroelectric plant is nearing completion.
Testing on the new power plant along the Moon River is set to begin this week.
Swift River Energy Limited is the company behind the multi-million dollar project. It's a 4.7-megawatt run-of-river waterpower facility that is expected to produce power for 4,000 homes.
When testing starts, the company is advising people to stay away from the area and says there shouldn't be any impacts to water levels.
"Water levels upstream and downstream will be minimal. That means your boathouses, your docks, your boats, will not be affected," explains Nhung Nguyen, vice president of development.
The controversial hydro project has had its share of opposition from residents over the years. "We know that the chief operating costs for hydroelectric power is liability insurance because they drown people. To put it right in the middle of this very busy recreational water area is nothing short of insane in my opinion," says Bill Purkis, resident.
Purkis works at the bait shop directly across the street from the plant and says he's not against hydropower, his focus is on keeping his family safe.
Purkis says he would be open to the idea of shutting the plant down during the bustling tourism season. "There are almost no boats in the water before the 24th of May, or after Thanksgiving," he says. "So it would solve the problem if they restricted the operation of the plant."
The company has addressed safety concerns in the past with a statement that reads in part, "The risk inherent with boating, swimming etc. in this area will not change. The area immediately downstream of the North Bala Dam is currently designated as 'no swimming' and has been for a while."
The province has backed Swift River Energy by disputing that there are safety concerns, saying any potential impacts have been thoroughly considered.
Testing at the plant will happen every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and could take up to three weeks to complete.