New Campbell River hydro station goes underground too

Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin selected as contractor for $1 billion John Hart Dam project

It’s all going underground.

That’s the word from BC Hydro and contractor SNC-Lavalin Inc. regarding the $1 billion project to replace the John Hart Generating Station.

“The replacement facility will improve power reliability and seismic safety, and make it easier for BC Hydro to protect fish habitat in an area of the world renowned for its salmon,” said BC Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson in a news release.

On Tuesday morning, BC Hydro announced that Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin had been selected as the preferred contractor following a 19-month-long bidding process.

The biggest surprise though was news the generating station would also go underground. Hydro had already planned to build a 2.1-kilometre tunnel to replace the woodstave pipelines that bring water from John Hart Lake to the generating station.

But when everything’s complete by 2018, the ugly concrete generating station – that now sits at the head of the river – will be gone for good.

According to the plan, the new generating station and turbines will be built 70-100 metres underground and about 500 metres up General Hill from the existing power plant.

“Once the water passes through the station it will continue through the remaining section of the tunnel at low velocity and discharge into the river at the entrance to Elk Falls Canyon,” said Watson.

Two of the three big surge towers currently in place will have to come down. The third one will be left because it supports communications equipment and will act as a landmark for pilots approaching Campbell River Airport.

The announcement also comes at a good time for SNC-Lavalin, one of the world’s leading engineering and construction groups. In the third quarter of 2013, the company reported losses of $72.7 million.


Fast Facts


  • Work will begin in 2014 and will be complete by the end of 2018.
  • The project is budgeted at $940 million.
  • It will create an average of about 400 jobs per year over the five years of construction. BC Hydro will be working with the contractor on their construction plan and the forecasted job projections.
  • You can check out construction progress at BC Hydro’s project interpretive centre which opened this week at the new parking lot by Elk Falls. The centre is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The days and hours of operation will depend on public interest, the season, and the various stages of the project. The centre features wall panels and an interpretive touch screen that covers John Hart’s history, present operation, construction activities and future look. The centre is located off Brewster Lake Road.
  • BC Hydro, on behalf of SNC-Lavalin, is providing general contact information for people or companies looking for subcontracting opportunities, jobs, supplies and accommodation support. E-mail or fax 604-331-4644.