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John Hart Dam upgrade approvals coming soon

BC Hydro is optimistic it will receive approvals for its upgrade of John Hart Dam generating station in the spring. - Photo submitted
BC Hydro is optimistic it will receive approvals for its upgrade of John Hart Dam generating station in the spring.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Provincial government and BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) approvals for the John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project could be in place as early as February and that means preliminary work could begin in March.

BC Hydro’s Stakeholder Engagement spokesman Steve Watson tells the Mirror “BC Hydro looks to get the official project green light by spring with the BC Parks Boundary Adjustment and the BCUC approvals. Those could come as early as February.

“BC Hydro will be undertaking some early construction works to prepare the site for the major construction work beginning towards the end of the summer. This early work may start around March and mainly include trail, access road and parking modifications.”

Watson says BC Hydro will announce the winning team from one of the three competing teams this summer, with a community business open house to meet that team to be arranged soon after. Construction would then begin in late summer and last for about five years.

The estimated cost of the project is between $1 billion and $1.2 billion. The plan is to replace the three 1.8 km long pipelines with a two km tunnel eight metres in diameter. A replacement generating station will be constructed beside the existing station. A new water intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam and a new water bypass facility will also be built. The existing station will continue to operate during the construction phase, and then transfer operations to the new facility.

Looking back Watson says “2012 was a very good year for the John Hart project in taking big steps forward and now becoming a reality for people. From the procurement process initiating and the short listing of the three teams, the local business speed dating event with those teams in July, the partnerships established with First Nations, to now reaching the end of the regulatory approvals, there is a lot of support and now anticipation for this major project.”

BC Hydro is working towards having the first replacement generating unit in-service by 2017. The utility forecasts about 2,000 person years of work during the construction period or about 400 person years of work each year over five years. The size of the workforce and the work requirements will not only change from year to year, but also during the year. Year two of construction is expected to see the highest level of activity at nearly 500 person years of work.

Watson says: “As is common with projects of this size, BC Hydro has already been investing in the community before construction begins. This ranges from all the baseline studies for the upcoming environmental assessment, to First Nations education and training courses.

“BC Hydro, the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce, Vancouver Island Construction Association and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance have been collaborating to provide good two-way communication on BC Hydro’s procurement strategy and potential economic opportunities. This has resulted in the Chamber’s major projects web portal site to cover all aspects of the economic awareness and opportunities of the John Hart project. It provides the forum for businesses and suppliers to register within a database,” Watson says.

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