Campbell River trails to be diverted for dam construction

BC Hydro has been deliberating the best option for the aging generating station and now it’s up to the BC Utilities Commission

Construction on the John Hart Dam Generating Station has been pushed back a year.

BC Hydro has been deliberating the best option for the aging generating station and now it’s up to the BC Utilities Commission.

The board will give its verdict on the project – that comes with a $1.35 billion price tag – this spring.

If it’s approved, Stephen Watson, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said construction could begin in the summer of 2013. That’s one year later than Watson originally predicted. When he met with city council last March, Watson said BC Hydro would issue a Request for Qualification in spring 2011 and a Request for Proposal that same fall, with construction beginning in late 2012.

However, BC Hydro spent last year re-considering its options. Watson said some of the equipment at the 64-year-old generating station is in poor condition and Hydro was concerned about how it would perform in the event of a moderate earthquake.

The company settled on replacing the wood stave pipeline running from John Hart Lake to the generating station with a two-kilometre long, eight metre in diameter, tunnel. The project also calls for a brand-new generating station, built beside the current facility.

“The BC Utilities Commission will ask a lot of questions about how we arrived at this,” Watson told council on Tuesday, during his fifth presentation to council about the upgrade project. “We looked at the status quo, leaving things the way they are.

“We looked at generating alternatives, stage replacement and even decommissioning options. We moved to the tunnel option because of seismic concerns.”

The upgrades are also designed to erase the ongoing risk and consequence to fish from BC Hydro’s unplanned river flow reductions and to increase the power generation capacity from the current 126 megawatts to 138 megawatts, by using more efficient equipment.

Throughout construction, which is expected to last five years, the river trail near the generating station will be inaccessible for three years and the John Hart Dam to Brewster Lake Road will be closed to traffic for three years.

Watson said there will be road detours in place and BC Hydro will construct a 75-space parking lot off Brewster Lake Road, as well as provide a trail and access to Elk Falls Provincial Park.

BC Hydro is holding an open house Feb. 16 from 3-7 p.m. at the Maritime Heritage Centre to give the public the chance to view the site plans and project details.

“We certainly encourage people to come out and learn more about the project,” Watson said.

To find out more about the project visit and look under Key projects & initiatives.