In the 1940s, the B.C. government wanted to encourage hydroelectric and industrial development in the Northwest.
As Canada’s largest aluminum company, Alcan was asked to consider a power project on the Nechako River that would supply electricity for a new aluminum smelting industry in the region.
By the 1950s, Alcan was able to take on what would become one of the province’s most ambitious engineering projects, the Kemano hydroelectric development.
The project required damming the Nechako River, reversing its westward flow, and boring a 16-kilometre tunnel through Mount Dubose to the Pacific Ocean. It cost $500 million at the time, equivalent to more than $3 billion in today’s dollars.
Kemano now generates 896 megawatts of power, which is transmitted 80 kilometres to Alcan’s 272,000-tonne-a-year smelter in Kitimat.