Head, Clara and Maria Local History
The "Swisha" Dam: A Powerful Force in the Valley
North Renfrew Times, August 22, 1990, p. 11
Full Text
The "Swisha" Dam A Powerful Force in the Valley

by Mike Blore

There were no protests about the destruction of fish spawning grounds. There were no hassles from environmentalists about the effects of flooding the upper Ottawa valley. Some people were annoyed about the arrangements for moving them from their homes which would be under water when the dam was completed, but most people in this area were happy to have a good job. The economic boost in the immediate post-war era was very welcome. That's how Ray Clarke remembers the local scene in 1947 when he started to work for Ontario Hydro on the Des Joachims Dam and Generating Station.

Known to all in the region as "Da Swisha" the station has the greatest generating capacity of the nine plants in the Ottawa- Madawaska system. It was a major engineering undertaking that took four years to complete and at its peak employed three thousand people. The main dam is a concrete structure nearly half a mile long and 120 feet high. It spans the river where there used…

truck accident led to the rigorous enforcement of the company rule against riding on the back of trucks. A provincial explosives ticket was required before the stores would issue any explosives. The skilled men with this ticket were known as powder monkeys. There was extensive blasting in several areas, especially for the tailrace channels, and this work was done very safely. However, just before Christmas of 1948 one of the power monkevs withdrew sever-…

home in Deep River, lived in one of the H shaped huts built for the construction workers who slept on bunks four to a room. He said,"We were well treated and very well fed." His wages were $1.05/hour plus lodging and food when he started as a pressure welder in 1947. "There were only a few guys who owned a car but they'd all give you a ride to Ottawa for $3 if they had room. Otherwise you took the train or the bus which were quite frequent." Those who lived in Pembroke or Robert H. (Bob) Saunders was President of Hydro at that time and he came up to the dam many times during construction. He knew many of the tradesmen by name and always talked to everyone. By June of 1950 the dam was complete and the head pond was nearly full, stretching 57 miles up the valley and covering about 11,000 acres of land. The first two turbines were ready to run and the other six were not far behind. Each turbine would put out 40,000 kilowatts.

On June 28, 1950 the Des Joachims Dam and Generating Station was officially opened by Ontario Premiere Leslie Frost. Bob Saunders, other Hydro executives, politicians, special guests and many of the people who had worked on the project were in attendance. Ray remembers working many long hours in the weeks before the event to ensure that everything was ready and looking its best.

Initially the station was run by operators on shift at Swisha but this was changed in 1975 and the station is now run remotely from Chenaux. Swisha now has a crew of about 30, with no one on shift, doing maintenance work on the station. Also early in the '70's the turbines were upgraded over a period of several years to improve their reliability and to increase their capacity. When these upgrades were complete the station capacity was 52,000 kilo-…

Mike Blore, Author
Media Type
Item Type
The bottom of this article is missing Therefore some paragraphs are cut off.
Date of Original
August 22, 1990
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
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Mike Blore
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North Renfrew Times
Mail: P.O. Box 310, Deep River, Ontario K0J 1P0, Phone: 613.584.4161, Fax: 613.584.1062 Email:NRT@magma.ca
Website: http://www.magma.ca/~drcanrt/
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The "Swisha" Dam: A Powerful Force in the Valley