Disheartening that thousands of board feet of old growth Douglas fir staves are considered worthless

As a retired BC Hydro employee who was involved with some studies of the John Hart generating system over the years, I read the recent article about the dismantling of the old wooden penstocks with great interest.

They are a fine example of past wooden construction techniques and it is impressive that they provided some 70 plus years of reliable service.

The down side of the article was that the wood from the penstocks is going to be “disposed of” because it was coated with creosote preservative. I found it disheartening that thousands of board feet of staves made from old growth Douglas Fir are considered worthless because they have a creosote coating.

I am assuming that creosote was only applied to the outer surface of the penstock staves, otherwise, we in Campbell River will have been drinking creosoted water all of these years. I am also assuming that the penstock staves are several inches thick (at least 4” to 6”) to provide adequate structural integrity. Given that the creosote coating will only have penetrated the outer surface of the wood (perhaps as much as 1”), I can’t help but wonder why these boards would not have significant value and application if the outer inch or so was simply cut off using an on-site portable mill. The remaining vintage fir could be used for a variety of construction and/or finishing applications.

Of course, there will be a certain percentage of boards that have deteriorated beyond salvage value. However, a little creativity and personal will could provide much of this wood with a “second chance at life.” Perhaps the project manager needs to re-think this decommissioning project.

Marv Everett, retired

Campbell River

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