Dianne St. Jean
Waneta Expansion hydroelectric generating facility near Trail.
Waneta Expansion hydroelectric generating facility near Trail.
photo provided

According to reports released by Columbia Basin Trust (CBT, or “the Trust”) and Fortis Inc. on January 28, the Trust and Columbia Power Corp. (CPC) have entered into an agreement with Fortis Inc. to purchase its 51 per cent interest in the Waneta Expansion hydroelectric generating facility near Trail, B.C. for $991 million.

The Trust and CPC together had owned 49 per cent of the Expansion. 

Johnny Strilaeff, President and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust and Acting President and CEO, Columbia Power Corporation, who referred to this as ‘the legacy project’, said that they are extremely pleased to be restoring ownership to the originally mandated 50/50 partnership.

 “This facility is an extraordinary asset that wouldn’t have been possible without Fortis coming on board as a partner in 2010 to help with its development,” he said, adding that Columbia Basin residents will enjoy the benefits as more of the revenues are injected back to the region and the Province.

There will be no change to operations or to any key agreements. Long-term agreements are in place with BC Hydro to purchase the energy and with Fortis BC to operate the facility and purchase surplus capacity.

"The sale of our interest in the Waneta Expansion helps finance the substantial growth occurring in our regulated utility business, including growth in British Columbia," said Barry Perry, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fortis. "This transaction completes the asset sale funding component of our five-year capital investment plan."

Fortis constructed the 335-MW hydroelectric generating facility expansion with its partners ahead of schedule and on budget and has operated the facility since it went into production in 2015.

A second powerhouse was added immediately downstream of the Waneta Dam on the Pend d’Orieille River. It shares the existing hydraulic head and generates clean, renewable, cost effective power from water that would otherwise be spilled, and provides enough energy to power 60,000 homes.

The Trust and Columbia Power worked closely with the B.C. government to make the purchase possible.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the government to work in collaboration with Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust to return this valued asset to the people of the Columbia Basin,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister Responsible for the Columbia River Treaty, Columbia Basin Trust and Columbia Power Corporation.

“The return on this investment will benefit the province and residents of the Columbia Basin for generations to come.” CPC and CBT are both 100% owned by the Government of British Columbia. 

“As a founding board member of Columbia Basin Trust, and participating in the deliberations for months, I am as excited as when we were in the B.C. Legislature to witness the Lieutenant Governor enact CBT,” said long-time CBT board member and former Mayor of Valemount, Jeannette Townsend about the news

“Some of us long-time board members are in touch and we are all excited,” adding that one referred to the deal as ‘epic’.

Financial close is expected in April 2019.