Wally Penner of InPower BC

Big Campbell River project draws huge job interest

Construction on the five-year project begins shortly and will peak in 2016

At least a hundred companies and a thousand people are expected to attend next week’s business events for their chance to cash in on the billion-dollar hydro project.

The guest list for the three-day event starting Monday at the Maritime Heritage Centre is already jam-packed and no one is getting in without an official confirmation.

Leading up to those meetings, the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce hosted a sold-out luncheon March 20 to introduce local business leaders and contractors to Wally Penner.

Penner is the man heading up InPower BC, the company set up by SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. to oversee construction of the BC Hydro project to rebuild the John Hart Generating Station. The estimated cost to replace the generating station and build a 2.1-kilometre intake tunnel will be about $1 billion, and a good chunk of the money will be spent locally.

According to Penner, the project wants to ink supply contracts worth about $200-million and keep that within a 100-kilometre range.

“We certainly want to hire local. That’s the reason for the jobs event,” he said. “It makes more sense to hire local qualified people, because it costs less.”

In fact, one of Penner’s main concerns is not how to get rid of all the rock from tunnelling and building the new station underground, but attracting enough qualified workers and trades people.

That can be difficult when people with those qualifications are heading to high-paying oilsands and gas jobs in northeastern B.C. and Alberta. However, Penner believes some workers would rather stay close to home.

“There’s good jobs and good-paying jobs here,” he promised.

Construction on the five-year project begins shortly and will peak in 2016 when approximately 350 workers will be involved.

Other key dates are 2015-’17 when the portion of Brewster Lake Road, adjacent to John Hart Dam, is closed to public traffic.

The rock from all the tunnelling –  about 400,000 cubic metres or enough to fill 120 Olympic-sized swimming pools – is slated to be divided between the Campbell River and Cape Mudge Indian Bands.

Also, two of the three surge towers will be removed.

One will remain because its fitted with communications antennas and also serves as a visual aid for planes approaching and leaving Campbell River Airport.

“We’re going to make sure we do a good job,” Penner told the gathering at the Royal Coachman Neighbourhood Pub. “Hopefully we’ll be generating power in 2018 – we better be!”