OUR VIEW: Hydro announcement is the jolt we need

We say: Aging facility will generate 400 construction jobs

Although it was expected, the news that the B.C. Utilities Commission has approved the John Hart Dam upgrade is welcome.

A year-long regulatory approval process came to a close with the announcement Friday that the massive, $940-million project has been approved. The commission’s approval of the project comes after five years of project planning by BC Hydro, feedback from the Campbell River community, and a regulatory review process that lasted close to one year. The shot in the arm this project will provide Campbell River cannot be underestimated, particularly at a time when the local economy is in the doldrums. The project will directly provide 400 jobs over a five-year construction period but the spin-off benefits will boost the economy significantly more than that.

But this isn’t a make-work project designed to inject cash and reflect glowingly on politicians. This is a much-needed project that has real merit.

The commission determined the project was the most cost-effective option to address the significant reliability, seismic, environmental and fisheries issues associated with the 66-year-old facility.

The project briefly caught the eye of Liberal Energy Minister Rich Coleman who wondered out loud if the publicly-owned utility should be spending this kind of money at this time. It didn’t take long for BC Hydro officials to convince Coleman that the project has merits. He stated Friday, “We are pleased the Commission has recognized the importance of upgrading an aging facility that has been operating since 1947.”

Preparation work is well underway and the community has been anticipating this shot in the arm for some time. It is, dare we say, electrifying news.

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