BC Hydro will be starting early site preparation work in mid-September as the utility prepares for the John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project.
The work includes preparation of construction laydown areas, tree removals at various locations, power line relocations, and a boat ramp relocation.
“These early works will prepare the site so once we have all the project approvals in place the contractor can hit the ground running in summer 2023,” says BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson. “As an example, the tree removals are planned to take place outside of the bird nesting season so there’s no delays in starting the upgrade work at the dam. We did the same type of early site preparation work for the successful John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project.”
The tree felling will take place at various locations near the dam. The trees will be removed mostly by using a feller buncher machine and once processed, will be provided to First Nations. The laydown areas will then have the stumps and woody debris removed, and the top soil will be removed to allow for grading.
Some other trees will be removed through a hazard tree assessment for ongoing worker safety.
One of the construction laydown areas to eventually be created is on the north of the dam and beside the informal parking lot for hikers and mountain bikers that use the Dean Martin Trail and other trails. The parking lot and trails off Brewster Lake Road will be permanently adjusted for this laydown work. BC Hydro has been communicating with the City of Campbell River, River City Cycle Club and BC Parks over the past year to have ongoing public access to the trails during and after the six years of construction work.
Once the project upgrade work is complete, expected in 2029, all laydown areas not needed for operational requirements will be remediated and replanted.
“Given the public traffic across the dam and recreational activities just to the north of the dam, it’s important that people be aware in advance of these early works and understand why we’re doing them,” says Watson. “There will be some intermittent road closures and trail closures as the work takes place.”
Other site works include relocation of some power lines around the dam to allow for the upcoming construction activities.
BC Hydro’s existing boat launch by the John Hart Dam will be relocated closer to the City of Campbell River’s water treatment building. This will then provide ongoing access to the reservoir for water quality and project monitoring. The new boat ramp will be outside of the work zone for the new upstream earthfill berms and the water turbidity containment works, which is a floating boardwalk with two silt curtains on either side hanging down to the reservoir bottom. The boat ramp is not for public use.
With the boat ramp location change, BC Hydro notified Transport Canada that the John Hart Reservoir is a source of domestic water supply and that public boating is prohibited. There is therefore no project impact to reservoir navigational activities. BC Hydro is providing public awareness that notifications were made to Transport Canada through registry #5720 for the early works, and then under registry #5986 for the main project.
BC Hydro continues to work through project procurement, regulatory and funding approvals so the construction work on the seismic upgrades on the dam can begin in summer 2023. It is BC Hydro’s expectation that once the project is complete the John Hart Dam will be able to withstand a major earthquake.