‘How a giant hole will help Ontario’s shift away from fossil fuels‘  by Alex Hutchinson, is extremely well researched and well written.

Hutchinson’s on site experience during excavation tunneling is invaluable.  However the article is far too lengthy to include in this blog.  I hope you’ll forgive me for extracting highlights.  I urge you to read Alex’s most interesting article – link provided at end of blog.

I just found a link to a “Big Betty” slideshow that’s pretty awesome and have included the link in the last paragraph of the blog.  Note: the play button – top right hand corner of slide may be partially hidden.

Also, please find a link to OPG’s indepth video presentation in ‘Additional Links’ below.

A tunnel worker by the cutter head on May 13, 2011, to celebrate the safe completion of mining the 10.2 kilometre Niagara Tunnel. (Photo courtesy of Ontario Power Generation)

The Niagara Tunnel route follows the same path as two tunnels built in the 1950s, but at a much greater depth.

 After a five-year battle with the fickle subterranean forces of the Niagara Escarpment, the long-awaited mega-tunnel under Niagara Falls is 99.99 percent complete. Just a metre and a half of solid rock remains

  the Ontario Premier is preparing to radio the “dig” signal to equipment foreman Kevin Collins, far underground in the control room of the world’s largest hard-rock tunnel boring machine.

We’re assembled in a massive tent alongside the Niagara River… to witness the final “breakthrough”… A succession of speakers in the preceding hour had laid out the epic scale of the project: a $1.6 billion, 10.2-kilometre-long tunnel that has displaced enough rock to fill 100,000 dump trucks. It will ultimately funnel water from its intake above the falls to the Sir Adam Beck Generating Stations downstream at a rate that would fill an Olympicsized swimming pool every five seconds, spinning turbines to power 160,000 Ontario homesOntario Power Generation (OPG) commissioned the unprecedented boring machine… and, since tunnelling machines, like ships, are always female, dubbed her “Big Becky.”

Planning for the tunnel began in 1982 Tunnelling finally started in 2006, but a trip underground is still a voyage into the unknown… tunnellers reached a troublesome layer called the Queenston shale, and as months passed and losses mounted, it began to look like yet another victory for geology in the age-old battle of man versus rock…

The current Sir Adam Beck Generating Stations are angular, modern structures jutting into the river about eight kilometres downstream from the falls… where the Niagara Tunnel resurfaces,… in August 2010… my first tour of the then incomplete tunnel… in the 1950s, when the Sir Adam Beck II Generation Station added 16 more generators to the original 10… These days, as much as 4,000 cubic metres of water per second are diverted through various tunnels and canals around the falls to generate electricity. Canada and the United States signed a treaty in 1950… power generation, split 50-50 between the two countries… the current plan has been scaled back to only one tunnel and no additional generating capacity…”The Ontario government finally gave the go-ahead in 2004; Big Becky was built from scratch in 12 months, and began tunnelling in September 2006… It took 18 years to inch a tunnel under the Thames… but the basic principle is still in use today…

the Ohio-based Robbins Company has built boring machines for every conceivable terrain and location— through the Alps and the Andes, above the Arctic Circle, beneath the English Channel — culminating in the biggest ever built, “Big Becky”…

Water is now expected to begin flowing through the tunnel in December 2013…

within that opening, you could easily stack three eighteen-wheelers on top of one another and have room to spare…The 35-minute drive to the end of the tunnel is like a time-lapse video of the construction in reverse… five kilometres in, they’re laying down the lower third of the concrete lining… At this point, we’re just a few hundred metres from the mist and thunder of the greatest chute on Earth and the equivalent of 29 storeys almost directly below Canada’s tallest hotel… I prepare to enter a 150-metre-long, 4,000-tonne machine whose metal parts are so covered in grime and corroded by the salt oozing from the walls that they look like relics from a century-old coal pit… Big Becky  (click here for video link) is averaging close to 20 metres of tunnelling a day… an engineering feat of immense proportions…once it’s finished, it will remain invisible for the century or more of its service life as it delivers fuel to generate 1.6 billion kilowatt hours per year…This is the feeling I remember, nine months later, as I stand blinking in the bright sun waiting for Dalton McGuinty to give the signal to start up Big Becky for the last time.

 Toronto-based science journalist Alex Hutchinson has a new-found respect for boring machines.

Additional links:

Video Link: Niagara Falls Tunnel Project: Ontario Power Generation –



  1. Hey are using WordPress for your blog platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started
    and set up my own. Do you require any coding expertise to make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

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