This aerial view shows the areas of the John Hart power generating station replacement project that will be open to the public during a community event July 12.

BC Hydro welcomes public to John Hart project site

July 12 event is "once-a-year" opportunity for community to get a first-hand look at work on new power generating station

  • Jun. 23, 2015 7:00 p.m.

Members of the public interested in what’s happening with the John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project will get a once-a-year opportunity to see for themselves next month.

BC Hydro will host an open house at the construction site on July 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“BC Hydro has been working with the project contractor, InPower BC, to nail down the logistics of the annual community site event,” says John Hart project communications lead and BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson. “Within our project agreement we have one event per year where we open up the site to allow people to safely see this legacy project for BC Hydro and the Campbell River community. It’s not as simple of a planning process as people may think. But anything good takes effort and I really think the team has developed a wonderful site event for the public.”

The main considerations for BC Hydro were what people may want to look at, the timing of the year, and how they could see it safely and efficiently.

The two large underground tunnel portals, that are providing the access for the rock removal process in carving out the 93-metre long underground generating station and 2.1 kilometre water tunnel system, have been well developed. Now that the portals are well defined and visual, the team selected this area of the site to be made available. The summer timing made sense, and on a Sunday, to limit impacts to construction schedules and to provide the most flexibility for people who work during the week to be able to attend.

Watson says InPower BC has found good efficiencies in the daily drilling, blasting, rock removal, and shotcrete and anchor bolting process.

“People are unable to get into the tunnels because of stringent safety protocols,” says Watson. “Yet people will be able to walk partially down the portal ramps that lead to the tunnel to see the openings very clearly. The open excavation of the two portals are about 25 metres deep at the ends and one of the tunnels is six metres by nine metres. You don’t get a true sense of the size until you’re there looking at it.”

The portals are located immediately upstream of the three iconic, 90-metre tall white surge towers.

BC Hydro has not ruled out people potentially getting into the tunnels later on in the project. The new hydroelectric facilities are expected to be commissioned around fall of 2018.

“The if and how has yet to be determined, and may be two years out should it be possible,” says Watson. “The project will be more evolved by then.”

The John Hart dam site is not on the list for this year but likely will next year, when the new water intake works will be taking shape.

For the how to get there on July 12, BC Hydro will have seven school buses transporting the public from downtown Campbell River, on Shoppers Row directly in front of Spirit Square, up to the site.

BC Hydro was adamant that no cars or walking will be permitted along the 1 kilometre-long Surge Tower Road to the construction site. Traffic control will be in place.

The buses can carry 47 people and will be running, free of charge, at 9:30 am and about every five to 10 minutes in a loop from downtown to the construction site, to the interpretive centre area and then back downtown. The last bus to leave downtown will be 2:30 p.m.

At the interpretive centre and Elk Falls parking lot there will be BC Hydro bucket truck rides, food and water, about 10 booth displays including the Rotary Club, BC Parks and the BC Power Pioneers, and the Museum at Campbell River will be putting on puppet shows.

Half the interpretive centre and Elk Falls parking lot will be cordoned off. All participants taking the bus will be given a John Hart project fridge magnet as a memento.

BC Hydro is uncertain how many people may attend, but it can handle up to 2,500 people given the limits of the bus transportation. Patience and courtesy may be the order for the day for this exciting event.

“The community support for this project has been excellent over the years and this is a way for the project team to show our gratitude for that ongoing support by having this annual event,” said Watson.