Kemano- Tunnel

Kemano, British Columbia, Canada

A 16km (10mi) horseshoe shaped Power tunnel, 25 ft wide, the width of a 2 lane highway,
was built from the 6.5 billion gallon, Nechako reservoir, Water intake at Tahtsa Lake West.
It has a cement floor, and rock walls.

The boring of the tunnel started Oct 22, 1951 from the West end of Tahtsa lake.

Nov 4, 1951 boring started from the Seaward side.

The reservoir was created by building the 324 ft high, Kenney Dam.
Kenny Dam built from clay, and rock. no concrete.
Built by 1,000 men, accessed from a new 60 mile road they had to build in a short time.
beginning in 1949, surveyors from McElhanney Company, carried out the topographic surveys for the Kenney Dam,
and performed survey control for the drilling of the tunnels.
Drillers worked from 4 headings, and met within a few inches.
I would say they did a great job.
All this without GPS!
The four headings were from Tahtsa lake, west, then at the Horetzky adit, (at 520 meters into the mountain),
with crews working east to Tahtsa lake, and west from that point to Kemano.
Last heading was from Kemano heading east.

The Power Tunnel carries the water to the two 11 ft. diam. Steel lined penstock tunnels.
The water plunges from the 2600' level, at a 42 degree angle, (some sources say 48 degree angle)
to the 1600' level, levels off for 500', then plunges again, at a 42 degree angle, (48 deg?)
to 8 conduits, the end of which are massive valve chambers,
then the water enters the powerhouse at 61 meters, above sea level
Exiting the powerhouse, and mountain, via 8 tailrace tunnels which combine into one main tunnel,
which exits into the Kemano River, which empties into Gardner Inlet.

End view of the Penstock steel liner,
near tramway, waiting for the big lift up the mountain.
the Liners were fabricated in Vancouver

They used the Intrusion Prepakt Concrete method,
Special Cementitious Mortar pumped in at frequent intervals,
using low pressure, to grout voids in packed coarse aggregate, 2 ft thick,
between the steel liners and the rock wall of the Penstock tunnels.
developed in 1950's by Intrusion Prepact Inc, Cleveland OH

There were 5 fully equipped mining camps for the construction of the tunnel,
one each at the 2600 and 1600 ft level,
One at Camp 5 at Kemano, for Powerhouse, and Tunnel exit,
one at Horetzky Creek, for the Horetzky Adit entry,
and then one at West Tahtsa Lake, for the Tunnel entry, and water intake.

Morrison-Knudsen signed an agreement , after a short strike,
with the newly formed Tunnel and Rock Workers Union of BC, Local 168 on Aug 14, 1952
Prior to that workers were under the General Labourer's Union, I think?

The Power tunnel branched into the 2 penstock tunnels at the 2600 ft level.
Railbed were placed in these tunnels to haul in the steel penstock liners, that were built in Vancouver, and other equipment.

The tunnel takes the water 800 vertical meters, to the Generator turbines.
It took 20 months to build this 10 mi. tunnel, for the water.
16 men died building this tunnel, between 1951 and 1952.
2- 2500ft head steel penstocks, each 4450 ft in length,
were assembled in sections, at a 48 degree angle in the mountain.
Each 11ft diam. penstock, powers BLH Pelton Impulse turbines
whole thing is referred to as a Hydraulic Penstock design.

Views while blasting the tunnel

West Tahtsa P. I.
with access hole on left, to the Construction Adit
May 29, 1954
View shows the horseshoe shape of the tunnel
As I write this, thousands of gallons are flowing through this tunnel.

I know there was an Adit called the Horetzky Adit
where the power tunnel makes a slight bend
coming from the intake at Tahtsa lake, heading to Mt. DuBose.
There was another Adit, that gave access to the Penstocks.
the Adits were 5 meters in diam.

A picture of the Tunnel Workers
probably at the time of completion

Hole through, West Tahtsa to Horetzky Adit
throwing of blasting switch by Mr. McNeely "Mac" Dubose Jr.

others in photo, per caption:
All Management, L/R

1. Russell H. Madsen,
b- ?
Morrison-Knudsen Assistant Project Manager

2. Colonel, Franklin (Frank) Thompson Matthias,
B.S. (C.E.) 1931, M.S. (C.E.) 1933, C.E. 1940,
University of Wisconsin
b- Mar 13, 1908 in Glidden, Ashland Co., Wisconsin
d- Friday, Dec 3, 1993, at a nursing home, in Walnut Creek, CA, of cancer
buried in Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Curtiss, WI
Education- 1931 BS, Civil Engineer, University of WI.
Masters Degree in Civil engineering in 1933
Frank graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
He also won the Kenneth Stirling Day Award.
Distinguished Service Medal by the US Army.
Head Engineer for Alcan, 1951-1960
Photo above from an Aug issue, (no yr), of Sagimat,
caption reads F. T. Matthias as President and General Manager
of Morrison-Knudsen of Canada Ltd.
He wrote an article for the Engineering Journal, Vol. 37, no11, Nov. 1954, p. 1398-1412 on Kemano Underground
He was the Nuclear Engineer who directed the construction of the Hanford Nuclear site in Washington State.
He was in charge of 51,000 civilian and military personnel there.
Retired in 1973, as Vice President, Kaiser Engineers, Oakland, CA
I heard rumours Kemano was designed with a nuclear attack in mind.
I'm thinking it was more than a rumour now.

Married twice-
1. Reva Baumgarten, Aug 1, 1933

2. Mary Teresa Benderska- married Oct 29, 1948, in New York

Father- Franklin (Frank) Herman Matthias
b- Dec 17, 1875 in Curtiss, WI
d- July 25, 1949 in Marshfield, WI
buried in Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Curtiss, WI
Station Master Wisconsin Central RR, Marengo and Curtiss, WI

Mother- Christina Thompson, married May 22, 1901
in Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Curtiss, WI
b- Apr 25, 1879, in Curtiss, WI
d- 1975 in Marshfield, WI
buried in Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Curtiss, WI
daughter of Ole Thompson and Kristi (Kjeste) Jensdatter Brubakken

3 brothers of Franklin T. Matthias:
1. Harold Everet Matthias-
b- Jan 22, 1902 in upstairs of RR station at Marengo, WI
d- Jan 10, 1989, San Jose, CA

2. Norman Arthur Matthias
b- June 27, 1903, Marengo, WI
d- May 29, 1990 in Tacoma, WA

3. Carl Douglas Matthias
b- Apr 23, 1914, in Glidden, WI
d- Oct 22, 1994, in Norfolk, VA

3. Raymond (Ray) E. Reed,
b- ?
Morrison-Knudsen Area Engineer

4. Percy E. Radley
b- Dec 28, 1898 in Quebec
d- ?

1901, age 2, living with his parents in Lachute Quebec
BC Project Manager for Alcan
former Vice-President of Alcan
Manager Smelter Division for Alcan.
Radley Park in Kitimat named after him.
Graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1923
Degree in Chemical Engineering,
Came to Shawinigan first in 1923, then Arvida when the smelter was built there, then back to Shawinigan, 1940-1942
becoming the first manager of Plant 2 there.
Became Chief Engineer for Alcan, 1950-56,
Director of the Kitimat project.
Retired in 1963, after 40 years service with Alcan, retained as an advisor.
1947 shown as former plant manager at Shawinigan Falls.
1963 him and his wife lived in Montreal.
His wife was the Empire Study Convenor,
for a Shawinigan Chapter meeting of the I.O.D.E. in June 1941.

daughter Elizabeth Ann Radley
married George Branch Alexander Hutchinson, Sept 14, 1956

another daughter, Mrs Wendall Richards

Father- Rev. Alfred Alexander Radley,
b- Oct 27, 1857, in London England
Immigrating in 1882, Methodist Clergyman

Mother- Rosa Kate Radley, nee Haryett,
married July 24, 1888 at Ottawa, ON
b- Nov 4, 1866 in Ontario
daughter of Samuel Haryett, and Elizabeth Haryett.

4 Siblings of Percy:

1. Claude Arthur Radley,
b- June 18, 1889 in ON,
d- May 20, 1976 in Vancouver BC, age 86

Married 3 times, 1a-3a
1a- married Mar 3, 1917, Marietta Penrose
b- Sept 17, 1895 in Winnipeg, MB
d- Feb 13, 1930 in Hafford SK
Had 2 children
2a- Oct 1, 1933- name unknown
3a- Nov 19, 1960 in White Rock, BC

2. Edith Lillian Radley,
b- Dec 3, 1890 in Frankville, ON,
Teacher in Renfrew Co., ON, Aug 16, 1924,
when she married Edward Notley Snow

3. Lola Radley,
b- Oct 25, 1892, in Frankville, ON,
Teacher in Renfrew Co, ON, Sept 1, 1923
when she married Haldane Roger Cram

4. Bessie Evelyn Radley,
b- Aug 3, 1895, in Sawyerville, Quebec
Teacher in Renfrew Co, ON, Aug 2, 1924,
when she married George Arthur Wallace.
all 6 living at 6 Sherbrooke St., Montreal, Quebec in 1911

Grandfather- Alexander Radley
Grandmother- Ann Radley, nee ?

5. Karl Roestad,
b- in Norway
Alcan Resident Engineer at Kemano
I know he was married, and had a son, John Roestad,
who attended Ridley College, St. Catherines ON, Nov. 1949,
and Karl and his wife were staying at the Habitant Inn, same time.
Also at this time, An Otto Wagner family from Oslo Norway,
came with their daughters, Eva and Elizabeth,
to visit their sister-in-law, Mrs. Karl Roestad,
at the Habitant Inn.

6. R. E. “Whitey” Davis,
b- ?
Morrison-Knudsen, General Underground Superintendent.
one of the 3 authors on “Kemano Penstock tunnel liner
backfilled with prepacked concrete”
dated Nov 1, 1955
I think this is Raymond Earl Davis Jr. the son of a famous Professor at the University of California.
Sr. was a consultant for concrete work at Hydro Dams like this one
retired in 1952 as Professor, and did consulting for places like Hoover Dam.
So is this him or his son?

7. McNeely “Mac” Dubose Jr., B.E., E.E.
(see separate section)
McNeely “Mac” Dubose Jr.

8. Vernon Bland.
Morrison-Knudson Superintendent at Horetzky Camp

2 in the background, not identified Dec 2, 1953

Supervisors at time of Hole Through West Tahtsa to Horetzky Adit

  • Marchetti,
  • Gorman (Labour Relations),
  • Hawkins,
  • Col. Franklin (Frank) Thompson Matthias (see above),
  • Karl Roestad, (see above)
  • Melnyk,
  • McNeely “Mac” Dubose Jr. (see Index),
  • Hunter (wonder if this is George Alexander above?),
  • Russell H. Madsen (see above),
  • Percy E. Radley (see above),
  • Buckley,
  • Premo,
  • Unidentified,
  • Swartz,
  • Shields
  • Dr. Leon Komar (Kemano Medical Officer),
  • R. E. “Whitey” Davis (see above),


  • Lowry,
  • Butler,
  • Lind,
  • Madaski,
  • Murray,
  • Vernon Bland (see above),
  • Fisher,
  • Garabaldi

In 1961 there was what they called a Progressive Rockfall in the unlined tunnel, that caused the powerplant to shut down,
which also shut down the smelter in Kitimat for 2 1/2 months, one source said 9 months. restarting again in Sept 1961.
Since the tunnel was not lined with concrete, as the cost to line it would have been 12 million dollars extra,
a rock fault, that the tunnel crossed, eroded, and collapsed rock into the tunnel, acting as a dam.
It cost 2.1 million to fix it, and line that area with concrete.
the damage occurred in the Tahtsa lake, Horetzky adit section.

possibly Camp 7, notice switchback road from the camp up the mountain,
this camp was probably for the transmission line, but could be from the tunnel as well.
If you know let us know.

This camp was accessible from a road which is visible on the right side. Camp 6 or 7 per Grant

Article written by W. G. Huber, General Manager of British Columbia International Engineering Company Ltd., to Attention of Mr. McNeely DuBose, Apr 15, 1954
Titled: Procedure for Penstock Tests and Adjustment of Butterfly Valves
the cc at the bottom is a list of all the big bosses at the time.

This Engineering Company's Parent Company
was none other than Morrison-Knudsen

This Engineering Company merged with B.C. Electric Railway Ltd.
and became a separate company, called B.C. Engineering.

All photos courtesy Grant Walker,
from his father, Thomas Raymond Walker's collection.

May 10, 1954 looking upstream in 2600 ft Adit, to Power Tunnel Wye

May 13, 1954 Incline of Penstock No 1, from Powerhouse Level

May 29, 1954- Intake Channel Dredging

Dec 11, 1953- Bunkhouse 1B

Dec 11, 1953- Cookhouse

Five Miles inside Mt DuBose, Ted Leonard climbs over broken rock to shake hands with Whitey Davis,
as the final blast joins each helf of Alcan's tunnel Dec 3, 1953
more info below on back of postcard
courtesy Grant Walker, CA

1952 bringing supplies to Tahtas Lake
courtesy Grant Walker, CA

The Miners set a couple World Records digging these tunnels.
in 1952,
Paul Raoul Broekaert was on one of these crews.
He arrived on a Beaver at the Beach wharf.
His son Maurice Broekaert sent me the photos below,
of these Commemorative Watch Fobs made by MK for the event

A real nice keepsake of his father's work at Kemano


  • Last modified: 2018/02/20 17:13
  • by dlgent