Big Chaudière Dam replacement project

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

Find out about the new Big Chaudière Dam that was built to replace the old dam.

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Project overview

Dokis, Ontario
Locate the Big Chaudière Dam on a map
Type of project
Replacement of the Big Chaudière Dam
Lead department
Public Services and Procurement Canada
Construction firms
  • Hatch of Niagara Falls, Ontario (engineering design contract)
  • EBC Inc. of Brossard, Quebec (construction contract)
The Government of Canada uses a fair, open and transparent tendering process to award construction contracts.
$21.9 million
Project status
Completed in October 2016

Project description

The Big Chaudière Dam, built between 1910 and 1916 on the shores of Lake Nipissing and the French River, is 1 of 3 dams that control the flow of water from Lake Nipissing into the French River. The dam consists of a south channel dam and a north channel dam.

During the project, new dams were built slightly downstream from the original Big Chaudière dams. The old dams were then removed.

Following the Canadian Dam Association’s Dam Safety Guidelines, the new dams have:

View image of the Big Chaudière Dam, with its south and north channels on the right and the Portage Dam on the left

Key milestones

This construction project began in 2012 and was completed in October 2016.

Benefits to Canadians

The Big Chaudière Dam replacement project shows the Government of Canada’s commitment to achieving its priorities. The modern public infrastructure helps improve the environment, make communities safer and strengthen the economy.

During construction, the general contractor hired 15 Dokis First Nation labourers and 10 other local workers. Operation of the Big Chaudière Dam is providing ongoing full-time employment to 2 members of the Dokis First Nation.

The French River dams control the outflow from Lake Nipissing and are essential for maintaining its water level and for regulating the flow of water into the 105-kilometre-long French River. The new dams ensure that the vibrant tourism industry in and around the French River will continue to attract people from across Canada.

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Project background

Find out more about the techniques and methods used for the Big Chaudière Dam replacement project.

General scope of construction project

The replacement of the Big Chaudière Dam will allow for continuous safe and reliable water management, and the new dam was built to meet the Canadian Dam Association’s guidelines.

The general scope of this construction project was to construct new north and south dams close to the existing ones and to remove the old dams.

View image of the installation of stoplogs for the new Big Chaudière Dam
View image of the construction of the new Big Chaudière Dam

Environmental considerations

Before the project, we conducted an environmental effects evaluation to help minimize the effects on wildlife in the area.

The Environmental Inspection Closing Report, prepared by EBC Inc., shows that measures designed to minimize risk posed by dam construction activities towards species at risk were successful.

Operation of the French River Dam Complex during construction

Lake Nipissing and the French River are regulated with the help of 3 federally owned dams:

As construction first began on the Big Chaudière south dam, only the north dam was available for water management.

The Little Chaudière Dam helped compensate for this loss during construction. The Little Chaudière Dam typically only operates in extreme cases. They include higher than normal discharge or critical periods like the Lake Nipissing drawdown (typically from October to March) or spring freshet (typically between March and May).

The next phase of construction used a similar strategy. The Portage and Little Chaudière dams helped compensate once construction started on the north dam.

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