Hydro money to rebuild water supply isn’t enough, says mayor

BC Hydro will contribute 75 per cent of the cost to rebuild Campbell River's water supply, but where will the rest come from?

BC Hydro will provide funding to the city to build a new drinking water supply system to accommodate construction at the generating station, but the mayor says that’s not enough.

An agreement between the city and the power corporation will allow the city to build new water works facilities that will still draw water from the John Hart reservoir.

While it’s been known since Hydro announced its billion -dollar John Hart Generating Station replacement project that an expensive new water supply would have to be built, the funding issue had yet to be resolved until Tuesday’s announcement.

“This agreement between the city and BC Hydro is very important to the citizens of Campbell River and our neighbouring community partners,” said councillor Andy Adams, liaison to BC Hydro, in a news release. “The funding provides a solid foundation for us to build on as we work toward the best long-term solution for our water supply.”

BC Hydro has committed to fund 75 per cent of the estimated costs (up to $12.5 million) of the new drinking water supply system.

But Mayor Walter Jakeway doesn’t want the city to make up the rest of the cost.

“It’s not a Campbell River city responsibility,” Jakeway said in an e-mail. “It’s a (BC Hydro) project cost.”

As part of the project, BC Hydro plans to replace the three large pipes that transport water from the John Hart Dam to the John Hart Generating Station, with a 2.1-kilometre tunnel.

The problem is the city’s drinking water has come from the water flowing through the pipes for 65 years. Stephen Watson, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said once the tunnel is built, it will be de-watered for scheduled maintenance and inspections, and will be unable to be the primary water source for the city.

That leaves the city with no water supply unless a new system is built. Jakeway said it’s Hydro’s responsibility to provide an alternate system as it’s Hydro’s upgrade project.

The mayor said Hydro’s funding announcement looks,good at first glance, but the city is still left paying a bill.

“They can spin doctor the situation all they want, but nothing has changed,” Jakeway said.

Watson thinks otherwise.

“BC Hydro’s funding contribution will help the city to finalize its water infrastructure decision,” he said. “The city has been very supportive of the John Hart project, and our ongoing positive relationship has culminated in an agreement on BC Hydro’s funding contribution.”

Adams welcomed Hydro’s contribution and said council plans to pursue other sources, such as provincial or federal, funding to make up the balance of the costs.

“The city is not in a position to pay for the water intake construction, whether it be from savings or future debt,” he said. “City council supports this agreement for funding support and appreciates BC Hydro’s contribution and continued assistance.”

The city hopes to finalize plans, costs and timelines for a new water intake from John Hart Lake in the fall.

The John Hart Dam Generating Station project is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2018 and is expected to create around 400 jobs a year over the five years of construction, according to BC Hydro.

The project is set to replace a facility that’s been operating since 1947 to improve power reliability and seismic safety. The project involves replacement of the water intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam, replacing the pipes with a tunnel, constructing a replacement generating station beside the existing station, and building a new water bypass facility. The John Hart project is still undergoing a review by the BC Utilities Commission; a decision is expected by spring 2013.