The Romance of Power Development

How the Building of the World’s Greatest Dam Typifies Progress in Canada

W. A. Craick May 1 1917

The Romance of Power Development

How the Building of the World’s Greatest Dam Typifies Progress in Canada

W. A. Craick May 1 1917

The Romance of Power Development

How the Building of the World’s Greatest Dam Typifies Progress in Canada

W. A. Craick

CANADA'S dependence on Pennsylvania coal fields for the very vitalof existence of several millions of her people an alarming condition emphasized forcibly by the events of the past winter. A mere caprice of nature : a fit of human obstinacy : a declaration of national expediency —any of these, so precarious was the situation, would have been

sufficient to bring down little short of a calamity on a large section of the Canadian people. Details of the effects on the individual and the nation of an interruption to the coal supply sre unnecessary. They were pictured sufficiently graphically in those anxious days when the danger was very near and very real. That they abundantly demonstrated the pressing need for a substitute that would at least minimize the evils of a fuel shortage is the main consideration. No longer if at all possible, should the people of Canada remain so absolutely dependent on a commodity, produced in a foreign country, subject to the control of a foreign government and liable to serious delay in its transportation and delivery.

One of Canada’s best hopes for an effective substitute for the black coal of Pennsylvania rests in her immense resources of what is picturesquely described as white coal. Those immense waterpowers scattered all through the Dominion, with their many millions of horsepower thundering to waste everyday, after opportunities for development sufficient to meet every possible need of Canada's existing and prospective population for years to come. For the mine, substitute the power house; for the long, grimy coal train, moving ponderously northward over miles of track, substitute the power-line; for the furnace and the stove substitute the motor and the electric heater; and the result will be a cleaner, sar.er and more efficient commodity.

'T' HE WORK of harnessing the waterpowers of Canada began some years ago and already close to two miHion horsepower of developed

energy is available for purposes of light, heat and power. There are. for example the immense power plants at Niagara Falls, with their transmission line stretching out over hill and valley, east, west, north and south, like the.tentaeles of some deep-sea monster! the big hydro-electric piant at Lake Bur.tzoen on Burrard Intet. supplying power to the City of Vancouver; the installations of the Calgary Power Company at Horse Shoe Falls and Kanar.askis Fall? on the Bow River; the various important developments, tribu

tary to the City of Winnipeg on the Winnipeg River; the power plants on the Kaminisrtiquia.the Severn,the Beaver, the Trent and the Ottawa Rivers in Ontario; and the various St. Lawrence River systems. All these plant« and others unmentioned, varying though they do in size and importance, are yet playing their part in the gradual emancipation of the country from its dependence on coal as the basis of so many of its everyday activities.

But after all the mere harnessing of a waterfall and the diversion of its current for the development of electric power is but one phase of a yet more compreher.-sive undertaking. Rivers, like human beings, exhibit varying degiees of effieier.cy from day to day ar.d month to .month. The flood of spring is many times more powerful than the attenuated flow of summer and numerous are the fluctuations that occur between the limits of high and low water. Yet, it is the minimum tlow that determines the year-round capacity of power development on any river. No mht'.er how much water may pour over the dam eleven months out of the twelve, it is the restricted flow of the twelfth month that prescribes the maximum degree of constancy that may be expected from that river’s performance. How valuable, therefore, would any device prove that would tend to normalize the volume of water passing through the channel of a river the year round.

'T' HERE is under way at the present *■ time in Canada, very quietly and unostentatiously. a project for doubling the efficiency of one of the most industrially important rivers in the Dominion. The scheme is not only interesting from the novelty of the undertaking, but it is notable as well from its magnitude, it involves, rn a word, the construction of a mammoth storage reservoir, double in capacity that of the largest dam yet constructed on the face of the globe. People think of the Nile as a mighty river and picture the famous Assouan dam near its headwaters as an unparalleled effort at water conservation, but when the La Loutre dam. now under construction far up the St. Maurice River in Quebec, is completed, Canada will possess a storage reservoir that will take second place to none among the world’s greatest hydraulic systems.

The St. Maurice is a remarkable river —one, the importance of w’hich the average Canadian perhaps does not yet appreciate to the-full. Erom the power standpoint, it is the Niagara of Quebec and yet it has several additional titles to fame whicti the Niagara River lacks. It has been in its day and still continues to be one of the great lumbering rivers of the

Dominion, millions of feet of timber having been driven down its turbulent course and sawn up in the various sawmills on its banks during the past century. It has become a centre for a paper manufacturing industry surpassing in its output that on any other river in Canada. It has attracted to its various power sites millions of dollars of capital which have been invested in industries of the first importance. It is scenically very attractive, while from the sportsman’s point of view it affords access to a vast territory abounding in fish and game.

Three hundred miles and more back in the hinterland of Quebec, the St. Maurice takes its rise amid a network of lakes and tributary streams, which are hidden away

in a wild, untrodden land known only to the Indian and the trapper. Until the builders of the National Transcontinental Railway penetrated the region immediately to the south, it was a territory practically unmapped and inaccessible. From the River’s source for two hundred miles down to the town of La Tuque, there is no settlement except for the camps of lumber companies, the lodges of fishing and.hunting clubs and the lonely stations along the railway line. Only at La Tuque do there appear those first evidences of that industrial activity -for which the St. Maurice is becoming increasingly famous.

TP HERE are to-day four important cenx tres of population on the River — Three Rivers at its confluence with the St Lawrence, midway between Montreal and Quebec-; Shawinigan Falls, twenty-one miles\up-stream, the scene of the greatest power development in the Province of Quebec; Grand Mere, twelve miles beyond, where the immense paper mills of the Laurentide Company are located, and La Tuque, already mentioned, one hundred miles inlarM, a growing town with great industrial possibilities. These four places comprise a little group whose collective importance, thanks to the resources of the River, is growing steadily greater.

Shawinigan Falls is naturally an ideal place for water power development. Just above the Falls, the-River widens into a lake, while below the Falls there lies a second lake. This brings the upper and lower water-levels within a short distance of each other, providing an extremely economical location for a power plant at the foot of the slope between them. The water rights at this point kre owned by the Shawinigan Water and Power Company, which sells a portion of the water to local manufacturing concerns and with the remainder operates its own 150,000 h.p. hydro-electric plant.

Through various subsidiary companies, the Shawinigan W’ater and Power Company distributes electric energy as far west as Montreal and as far east as Quebec, while it controls the light, power and traction systems of Three Rivera In the town of TShawinigan Falls itself, it operates plants producing carbide, carbon electrodes, metallic magnesium and other important electro-metallic products and provides the power for such notable industries a a those of the Belgo-Canadian Pulp and Paper Co., the Northern Aluminum Co., and the Canadian Electro-Products. Limited.

The dependence of the thriving City of Three Rivera on the power development at Shawinigan Falls is almost absolute. Here a considerable number of large industries, including sawmills, pulp and paper mills, textile -factories, tanneries and boot and shoe factories, are located, all deriving their power plant at the Falls.

At Grand Mere Falls the. head of water is 75 feet being only about half that at Shawinigan Falls. The power site is controlled by the Laurentide Power Company, in which the Shawinigan Water and Power Company holds an interest. The available power amounts to 100.000 h.p.. part of which will be taken by the Shawinigan Company to supplement the output of the present plant. The Laurentide Company, in its paper mills, consumes about 10,000 h.p.

At La Tuqqe Falls there is a head of eighty feet, with development possibilities of 75,000 h.p. Only 3.500 h.p. is at present utilized, the power being controlled by the Brown Corporation, which operates large pulp mills in the town of La Tuque.

In addition to the three fallé enumerated, there are at least eight other water-powers on the St.

Maurice River, which are still in their natural state. Within a few miles of Three Rivers are the falls of LaGabelle and Les Gres, with heads of ten and forty feet respectively

These have reí

. cently been acquired by the Shawinigan Water and Power Company, which will develop them later on when the water powers of Shawinigan Falls and Grand Mere are taxed to the Aimit.

Seven miles above La Tuque are the Sans Nom Falls, with a head of

128 feet. Farther on are the Vermillion, the Blancs, the Grand Cœurs, the La Grace and the De LAle Falls, varying in size from 18 to 138 feet and still in the hands of the Crown.

LJAVING observed the extent and importance of the power developments on the river; the wide territory served by the several power companies and the dependence of so many large industries on the constant supply of electric energy from its water falls, the significance of the following statement must be apparent. The proportion of the dood to the minimum dote on the St. Maurice Hirer is as 30 to 1.

This bald statement, when dissected, means that the volume of water passing down the channel of the River when the spring freshets are at their maximum i thirty times as great as the volume of water carried by the River during the time of the summer drought. Thirty to one is a big variation. On the St. Law-

rence the difference is only two to one. while on the Ottawa it is but fifteen to one.

With so much at stake. it is der that the Quebec Government arid the power companies on the St. Maurice River were led to consider rendering the flow of water more even throughout the year. I h e i r deliberations culminated five years ago in the determin ation to construct a vast storage reservoir far up the River, in which the flood waters could he preserved and served out as they were needed as to maintain a steady flow all the year round.

The provincial government in December. 1912. passed an Act empowering the Que bec Streams Commission to proceed with the undertaking a~ a public work, and -~nce then plans have been prepared. con tracts let and coni'truction proceeded with. it is quite safe to say that, without the exister.ee of the National Transcontinen tal Railway, the gigantic enterprise could rot have been undertaken. •The railwa% }~as rendered access to the scene of the proe~t comparatively easy. A~ those who have madf' thv~ int~r.esting jourr.e~ over this road between Quebec and Coch - iane are aware, the new transcontinental 1.n~ trik.'~ the St. Maurice River at La Tu~ue and follows the river valley for rna'~ v mi!e~ or. its westward course. It. is an exceedingly picturesque section of the line. The River winds between bold and rocky hills and the tra~k, skirting the edge of the River, now runs along a nar row ledge right over the flood of water and atrain sweeps back through some wooded valley. Views all along the road are of a wild and rugged grandeur.

At the junction of the Manouan River with the St. Maurice, about 85 miles north west of La Tuque, the railway leaves the latter river and strikes west to Parent. It is at this point, at a station caled Sanmaur, that one must make a digression from the .Transcontinental t o reach the dam just a bove the rapids of La Loutre. The river itself to La Loutre is 52 miles though this has been slightly shortened by the construction of a railway for part of the way. As far as the Chaudière Falls. 32 miles from SanContd. on p. 101. maur, the river is navigable and traffic is handled by means of scows towed by gasoline launches and steam tugs. From Chaudière Falls to the dam site a standard gauge railw’ay is operated, cars being hs.uled back and forth by donkey engines, which burn oil to avoid the danger of forest fires.

Romance of Power Development

Continued from page 28.

THE La Loutre project is not remarkable so much for the actual size of the dam proper, as for the magnitude of the reservoir which it will create. So far as the mere mas-

onry is concerned, thereare many larger dams. Its length of 1720 feet is exceeded many times by the

Assouan dam in Egypt, the Poona. Tansa and Bhatgur dams in India and the New Croton and Boonton dams in the United State». Its height of 80 feet falls far short of that of several famous dams that could be mentioned. Yet when it is stated .that it will store 160 billion cubic feet of water, then it immediately moves into a class of its own. The biggest dam is surely the one that holds most water and as the La Loutre will contain just twice as much as the Assouan dam, which-is the world’s largest dam at present, it will be entitled to premier position.

One really requires a map of the country to come to a full appreciation of the extent of the project. It is a region full of lakes, lying among low hills. The lowwater level of the water in these lakes will be raised from 7 feet in the case of the highest lake to 47 feet in the case of the lowest; much of the surround-

ing country will be flooded and in place of a score of more or les» distinct bodies of water, there will be one great reservoir over one hundred square miles ir extent. The flooding of many square

Briefly, the dam is to be, when complete, 1720 feet long, built in four sections intersecting at obtuse angles. Seven hundred feet of the dam will form overflow weir,

many miles of territory will naturally kill off much timber, but the quality and quantity that will be affected are such as to occasion no very serious loss.

its top being tea feet below the crest of the remai ning part of the dam. The measuring weir will be 375 feet in length. The

wall will be 60 feet wide at the base and 20 feet wide at the crest and is being built of -vclopean masonry. Five gates, each feet high and 12 feet wide, will be installed, giving a possible discharge of about 45,000 cubic feet of water per second.

I ' HE contract for the construction of the dam at an estimated cost of a million and a half dollars vt*as let in the spring of 1915 and much preliminary work was done during the 1915 season. The results of last year’s operations may be thus summarized. The east channel of the river was unwatered, excavated and the dam built up to elevation 1278 for the channel part and to 1300 for a short distance each side. The unwatering of the west channel, which is the main part of the river, was commenced, and the bow being diverted to the east channel over the concrete built up to elevation 1278. A small power development waa installed at La Loutre Falls two miles below the site of the dam, which develops 1100 h.p. under a head of 15 feet. This power is transmitted to the scene of operations where it is used for lighting purpoaee and the driving of machinery. A plant capable of making five hundred cubic yards of masonry per day has been established at the dam. Stone is taken from a quarry about a quarter of a mile away; is hauled to the crushers, where it Í9 broken to the proper size; and is then stored in large bins until required at the mixers. The sand is procured from a pit located about six miles from the works and is brought to the dam site in dump cars operated along the contractors’ own railway. It is anticipated that the work will be sufficiently advanced this year to admit of the storage of the flood waters of 1918 in the dam.

AND now what is to he gained by the completion of this extraordinary undertaking? Let us see. j From calculations made over a periodjof many years at Shawinigan Falls, it was ascertained that the minimum flow of water per day during that period amounted to approximately 6,000 cubic feet per second. That

flow naturally determined the primary power available; at this particular point on the river and it wastaken as the basis for figuring out possible ex pansion. Without entering into an explanation o f how the problem

was actually worked out, it may be stated that regulation of the flow, by the use of the storage dam, was proved I to be feasible to the extent of 15,000 cubic I feet per second. To provide, however,

1 for all possible deficiencies, it was decided i to limit the enlarged flow to 12,000 cubic ! feet per second, at which point the mini| mum current all the year round will be 1 twice that before regulation. This inj creased flow will exactly double the prij mary power at Shawinigan Falls, while j it will more than double the primary Í powers at the falls higher up the rivçj-.

Superficially, one may be inclined to regard the far-off, unheralded project at La IiOutre, hundreds of miles beyond the pale of civilization in Quebec, as something apart, a mere curiosity, without any apparent bearing on everyday affairs. But is it really so detached from the lives of the people? Is there not a very vital connection between it and the average home?

From the distant mammoth reservoir there will come pouring down all through the drought of summer a steady and -equalized flood of water. It will reach the power dams at LaTuque, Grand Mere and Shawinigan Falls. There it will double the quantity of electrical energy developed hitherto. This increased power will come flashing over the transmission lines to Montreal, to Three Rivers, to Quebec and to all the towns and villages between. It will enter the home and the factory — more homes and more factories than ever before — and in the aggregate it will "erform double the tasks that it could accomplish before. That will be the immediate achievement of this one. amazing enterprise.

But conservation work on the St. Maurice is only a beginning, an isolated ’instance. Other rivers throughout Canada will have to be treated similarly, if the country would derive the greatest possible advantage from its water-powers. The wastage during the period of spring floods is enormous. To seize and hold this surplus water and to serve it out as needed during the drier seasons of the year is to put into operation a policy alike sensible and profitable.

Then there will be a vast increase in the quantity of hydro-electric energy available, alike for industry, transportation, public service and the home. Already Canada is in a premier position as regards the per capita consumption of electric power. Such developments as that on the St. Maurice River will assure her continued supremacy in this regard. And it will be more particularly in the home that the advantage of greater ; power will be most felt. The application i of the electric current to relieve the ' drudgery of the housewife’s daily tasks I is one of the greatest boons that the age ; has conferred and the rapid expansion of : the use of electricity in the home is a i conspicuous feature of the day.

The heating of houses by electricity is i still an alluring prospect unrealized, but it is coming. The dam at La Loutre is a step in that direction. Meanwhile the electric current is stealing into many homes as the cleanest, quietest and most efficient of servants. Its use as an illuminant is too commonplace almost to men-

tion, though there are frequently new applications in the sphere of lighting that are deserving of attention, as making for greater comfort and efficiency. The Electric stove is something newer and scarcely less important. On account of its surpassing cleanliness and reliability, it is finding favor in many, homes. Vacuum cleaners, operated by means of electric motors, are a blessing which no housewife, who would fain escape the back-breaking burden of the broom and the duster, can afford to do without.

Then again, electric power has brought respite in other directions. The toaster and the percolator on the breakfast table save both time and effort, in the speediness and efficiency with which they perform their respective tasks. The electric fan has been a health-bringer and a health-preserver in the dog days of summer. The labor of driving a sewing-machine by foot power for hours at a time is lightened by the facile attachment of a small motor, while the washing machine, electric-operated, is a "burden-lifter, thé value of which cannot be. minimized.

For a time there was a tendency to regard electric apparatus in house-work aa a luxury beyond the purchasing ability of the average person. This view ia ( rapidly being changed. People do not think so much to-day of the cost of a particular article as of the saving it will effect. If a house-wife can save her time and her health by utilizing, let us say, a vacuum cleaner, then that saving in dollars and cents should be taken into account when the investment in the machine is considered. Economy is a good thing but it may be carried to a point, where it ceases to be economy: A woman may

wear herself out in struggling along with her housework in the old-fashioned way, when a comparatively small investment in labor-saving electric apparatus, would lighten her burden and give her leisure for the pursuit of health and pleasure. And it is extremely interesting to note just here that the relief spoken of is not dependent entirely on the development of hydro-electric energy.

The ingenuity of the inventors has been at work, with the gratifying result that another means of generating electric power, which is both simple and economical, has been devised. The householder can have his own system and manufacture his own electricity. Gasoline or coal oil is the efficient source of power. With gasoline engine, dynamo and storage batteries, he can develop and store all necessary energy for household requirements. The unit system, which lenders its owner quite independent, is or.e of the most interesting inventions of the day and it can be installed at auch a low cost and operated so cheaply that it is bound to play an important part in future in the home life of the community. Of a truth the dawn of the electric age is broadening!