Chaudière Falls opened to the public for first time in a century

Newly-expanded Energy Ottawa hydroelectric facility produces clean, renewable power

For the first time in more than 100 years, the public will have access to Chaudière Falls thanks to an expansion of Energy Ottawa’s Chaudière Falls hydroelectric facility.

Energy Ottawa, an affiliate of Hydro Ottawa, is Ontario’s largest municipally owned producer of green power with a total generation capacity of 128 megawatts and powers 107,000 homes. The plant, which has been operating since July, produces enough green energy to power 20,000 homes.

The area, previously closed to the public, has long been a hub of industrial activities in Ottawa. The new site is designed to promote open access, celebrate the site’s past and future, and provide views to the historical Chaudière Falls for everyone; including a defined corridor on the roof of the new hydroelectric facility as well as a new bridge across the intake canal.

Prior to the renovation, Energy Ottawa consulted various organizations including the National Capital Commission, various Indigenous groups as well as members of the public. The message they heard was clear: Give residents and visitors access to the falls.

“I prefer to look at it as we’re opening it to the public, because it really hasn’t been opened up to the public before,” says Franz Kropp, Energy Ottawa’s Director of Generation.

He adds the main goal of the expansion was to highlight and showcase both the falls and the history of the area.

“Because there is a lot of history here, you can’t do it justice without actually seeing the whole site,” Mr. Kropp says. Ultimately, he believes the new public access will increase understanding of Energy Ottawa’s operations as well as the industrial and Indigenous history at the site.

The Chaudière Falls hydroelectric facility is a run-of-the river plant, which means it harnesses the power of the Ottawa River without large scale flooding. Run-of-the river hydroelectric facilities continue to be one of the most efficient and eco-friendly means of generating electricity.

“Given that it’s a clean, renewable energy, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing that green power into the grid,” says Mr. Kropp. The Chaudière Falls facility offsets greenhouse gas emissions by 115,000 metric tons of CO2 every year.

Built entirely underground, the project was designed to minimize the impact on the visual, natural and aquatic environments at the site. In its commitment to preserving the area’s natural beauty and ecosystems, Energy Ottawa incorporated several measures to assist in the preservation of two endangered species of fish in the area.

The organization built a spawning bed for sturgeon down river of the plant and installed a bypass system so that fish can avoid the hydroelectric facility and the dam as they navigate the Ottawa River.

Energy Ottawa also had a fish ladder designed and installed for the American eel, so that juvenile eels can migrate upstream to spawn.