BC Hydro representatives shut down Generator 2, the last of the old generators, shortly before 11 a.m. Photo by Mike Chouinard Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Last two old generators at John Hart Dam shut down

Hydro employee, president turn off last two generators during ceremony

The old powerhouse at the new John Hart Generating Station site is now history. BC Hydro shut down the last two of the six generators at the powerhouse for good during a ceremony Thursday morning.

“The John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project was built, or rather initiated, in 2007,” said Stephen Watson, BC Hydro stakeholder engagement advisor. “Here we are, shutting down the old powerhouse.”

For the event, a Campbell River employee, Greg Remfert, was chosen through a lottery to shut down one of the generators. With other company representatives standing by his side, he pulled the switch at about 10:15 a.m.

He admits the honour came as a surprise.

“I didn’t even know it was happening,” he said. “They put everyone’s name in a hat.”

He has spent roughly 26 years there.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he said.

BC Hydro President and COO Chris O’Riley was scheduled to shut down the final unit, but could not fly in for the ceremony because of fog.

“I know Chris wanted to be here,” Watson said. “His first job at BC Hydro was at John Hart, and he’s been very intricately involved with the facility throughout his career.”

Other BC Hydro representatives stepped in and turned off the generator at about 10:45 a.m.

Neil Dermody, BC Hydro field manager for the area, credited the work of many, from BC Hydro executive to management to staff in getting the John Hart project to this point.

“I’ve likely missed a few, but suffice it to say it’s been an entire team effort,” he said.

BC Hydro staff and Power Pioneers, or retired BC Hydro staff, were on hand for the moment when the generators came to a stop. The utility says the idea behind Thursday’s ceremony was to celebrate the old facility and what it had meant for the Campbell River area since the 1940s.

RELATED STORY: Dam makes Campbell River a powerful place

The closures are part of the massive John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project. Construction work started on the new facilities in July 2014. By early summer 2017, all of the underground rock had been removed.

The commissioning stage began with new water release valves on the downstream side of the dam and the a new water bypass facility within the underground powerhouse in early May.

RELATED STORY: Water flows through the John Hart tunnels

For the new facility, there will be three new generators, the first of which was commissioned in July on schedule, while the remaining two start operating this week to take over full hydroelectric operations on Thursday.

By 11 a.m. the hum at the old site had been silenced, but the old generators may need to be used as a backup over the next couple of weeks, though are otherwise out of service. Decommission work at the site should be done by the end of next summer.

“By basically the end of summer next year, the three penstocks will be removed, two to three search towers will be removed down to the ground level. One will stay … but it’s not part of the new system, and then this powerhouse will be removed down to the ground level,” said Watson, “so it’ll be a big change.”

RELATED STORY: First new generator at John Hart Dam ready to spin

Over the past year, BC Hydro has held four ceremonies to close other generators at the powerhouse. Last October, Georgean Price, wife of first John Hart plant manager Art Price, and her family took part in shutting down Generator 5. In March, Campbell River’s mayor and council had the opportunity to close down Generator 3. Two months later, members of BC Hydro’s Campbell River Community Liaison Committee shut down Generator 1. Earlier this month, We Wai Kai Nation and Wei Wai Kum Nation were picked to turn off Generator 4.

“These were really meaningful shutdown events for these community members and BC Hydro,” Watson said.

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