Bennett Dam marks 50 years

Brothers reflect on following in father’s footsteps

1968 Bennett Dam Radial gates work for spillway | Submitted

While the official 50th anniversary of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam isn’t until 2018, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the dam’s completion.

Construction of the dam was officially completed on Sept. 12, 1967, though the project wouldn’t produce its first kilowatt of power for another year. 

Frank Burkitt was one of the many workers on the dam in the late 1960s in Hudson’s Hope. While he’s since passed away, his sons, Grant and Stan Burkitt, followed in their father’s footsteps working at the G.M. Shrum Generating Station.

Both men had nothing but good things to say about growing up in Hudson’s Hope.

“Perfect childhood,” said Stan. “Because it was a construction town, the volunteers and the work they did in the community—our father spent countless hours and nights flooding outdoor rinks, curling rinks and getting ice ready for bonspiels and hockey tournaments.”

The curling rink and hockey rink were all built with volunteer labour, which Stan says is a testament to the town’s community mindedness.

Hudson’s Hope was almost like a work camp, but better. Everyone worked at the dam, and everyone lived in the community. Lasting friendships were formed both in town and at the dam.

Frank was a carpenter at the Bennett Dam and Stan said some of his father’s best and longest friendships were made on his first day.

“He started in the powerhouse … and on that first day is where he met his closest friends for several years in our small town,” said Grant. “One was his foreman and one was a guy who started the exact same day as him.”

During the boom cycle of the dam’s construction, the Hudson’s Hope school peaked at 800 students—which is more than the current population of the community.

The Bennett Dam is currently in a refurbishment stage, as Grant says staff are replacing larger pieces of equipment on a yearly basis now, and the rip rap is 70 per cent placed. “That’s common for every dam, a generator can only last for so long,” he said.

The W.A.C. Bennett Dam officially came online on Sept. 28, 1968.