The W. A. C. Bennett Dam is a massive hydroelectric dam on the Peace River in northern British Columbia. The project further solidified the Company’s reputation as the world’s premier dam builder. At 660 ft high, it is one of the world’s highest earth fill dams. Construction of the dam began in 1961 and culminated in 1968.
At the dam, the Finlay, the Parsnip and the Peace Rivers feed into Williston Lake, also referred to as Williston Reservoir. It is the third largest artificial lake in North America (after the Smallwood Reservoir and Manicouagan) as well as the largest body of fresh water in British Columbia. Williston Lake runs 250 kilometers north-south and 150 kilometers east-west.
The construction of the dam cost $750 million, making it the largest project of its kind in the province of B.C.and in Canada. The dam was named after the premier because his vision played a major role in the project initiation, development and realization; the reservoir was named after the premier’s trusted cabinet colleague Ray Williston. The Gordon M. Shrum Generation Station at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam has the capacity to generate more than 13 billion kWh annually.
At the time of its construction the powerhouse was the largest of its kind worldwide. In addition to the benefits related to the energy generated, the construction of the dam and the reservoir also provided economic opportunities for the province of British Columbia, for the newly founded state owned electric utility BC Hydro, and for the large number of workers.
The project peaked with Morrison Knudsen employing 3500 workers on the site.