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Mactaquac and the Freshet

April 22 2015, 09:36 AM

Mactaquac and the Freshet


After the winter that just kept on giving, the signs of spring are welcome as we put away our snow shovels for another season. With temperatures starting to warm up across the province, this is also the time when many New Brunswickers are closely watching rising water levels in the rivers and in some cases, already dealing with flooding

Now that the spring freshet is upon us, NB Power has been hard at work with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization and other local partners monitoring ice conditions, snow pack, precipitation accumulation and weather patterns.

How it works

NB Power operates six run-of-river hydroelectric generating stations across New Brunswick- the largest being Mactaquac. Run of river facilities depend on the constant flow of the river. To generate electricity, the water flowing into the station is directed down and through turbines, providing the energy to spin the generators. Run-of-river stations have no ability to hold back water. All water that comes into the station must go out - especially during the spring freshet when water flows are higher than normal.

Hydro generating stations like Mactaquac contribute energy to our grid year-round, but sometimes during the spring thaw we have more water flowing into our stations than we’re able to generate. When all of the turbines are operating at full capacity in the station, operators open the spill gates to let out this excess water.

Ice Jams

Ice jams on the other hand do hold back water and ice from moving freely downstream. Ice jams have been the cause of major flood events in the past here in New Brunswick, like those in Perth-Andover, Fredericton and St. George.

These jams happen when the ice in the river breaks up, sticks together and hits the bottom of the river. Like an iceberg in the ocean, what we see from land is only the tip of the ice jam in the river. Once the ice jams, it interrupts the natural flow of the river and the water behind it backs up, causing water levels to rise. Some areas of the river are more likely to experience ice jams than others.

Here are a few other factors that can contribute to ice jams:

  • Two rivers joining, like the Tobique and Saint John rivers
  • Elements like islands, low bridges and sharp bends can narrow or block the path for ice movement
  • Thicker ice in the river
  • Shallow areas of river

Severe flooding happens when those factors combine with the following:

  • Speed and volume of river flow
  • Strength of ice cover
  • Snow depth
  • Precipitation
  • How quickly the temperatures rise

Be safe

It is so important for people to stay away from the water and ice near these hydro stations in the spring. Ice may appear to be solid, but is inconsistent due to changing water flows below. Calm water on the river below a hydro station can quickly turn into rapids with a strong undertow.

Watch for warning signs, boom, buoys and barriers around NB Power hydro stations.

Have an idea for a future blog post? Let us know in the comments section below or email us.

Welcome to the NB Power Blog

April 16 2015, 13:13 PM

Welcome to the NB Power Blog


This blog
will serve as a friendly place for you, our customers to find helpful information to answer any questions related to NB Power you may have and provide you with the latest information on our strategic direction.
We’ll provide insight into ways to keep your family safe around electricity, advice on how to save money on your power bills, tell you about cool new products that will give you better control over your energy use and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what we do to keep your lights on.

Some of the topics we’ll cover include: Renewable energy resources, environment, safety, energy efficiency and Smart Grid.

We also want to hear from you.

In addition to commenting on blog posts, you can also reach us by email, on Twitter or through our website.

We do ask you to keep it friendly when suggesting topics for discussion and when commenting on our posts. See our comment guidelines here for more on that.

We will monitor the blog and its comments during business hours, Monday to Friday. If you post a comment in the evenings or on weekends, we will review it as soon as we are able to.

A bit about us:

NB Power is a progressive, sustainable and customer-focused utility whose 2,300 employees are dedicated to providing quality service and safe, reliable electricity at low and stable rates. Our electricity is generated at 13 facilities throughout New Brunswick and delivered via power lines, substations and terminals to more than 350,000 New Brunswick homes, businesses, hospitals, schools etc. We also export electricity to New England, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Today, our generation mix is about 65% non-emitting with a goal to get to 75% by 2020.

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