The $940-million project to replace the John Hart Generating Station is another positive economic step for the city, says Mayor Walter Jakeway.
“This is wonderful…this is Fort McMurray-sized project,” the mayor said Tuesday, referring to the Alberta oil sands boom town.
On Friday, after years of planning by BC Hydro, the B.C. Utilities Commission finally approved the project to replace the generating station on the Campbell River.
The Commission green-lighted the $940-million project which will see the replacement of the 66-year-old John Hart Generating Station over the next five years. As well, the three above-ground pipelines, which carry water from John Hart Lake to the electrical generators, will be replaced with a 1.8-kilometre tunnel.
“We are pleased the Commission has recognized the importance of upgrading an aging facility that has been operating since 1947,” said Energy Minister Rich Coleman in a news release. “Now we can ensure the facility will continue to deliver clean, reliable power to Vancouver Island.”
In addition to the hundreds of jobs created by the project, as well as the spinoff economic opportunities, the city will benefit by having its main water pipeline replaced.
BC Hydro is picking up most of the cost for the replacement while the city is contributing $6 million.
“It will be done first before any of the other construction begins,” said Jakeway.
In recent years, city council has faced some lean economic times, but the mayor is optimistic things are changing for the better. In addition to the massive hydro project – and over the same five-year period – the Campbell River Hospital will be replaced with a new $266-million, 95-bed facility.
There’s also the new Berwick seniors’ home to be built downtown as well as the new five-storey head office for Seymour Pacific Developments and Broadstreet Properties Ltd.
Other developments include the new apartment complex under construction on Dogwood Street and Merecroft Road, a shopping centre at Dogwood and Hilchey Road, two new condominiums on Petersen Road, a new Mr. Lube at Mariner Square, the new residential tower for women and children on Dogwood and 11th Avenue, and more.
“There are at least 14 projects going on. There’s another building in the planning stages for downtown…and we will have to address secondary suites in the city for the hundreds of workers who will be coming here,” Jakeway said.
Since most of Vancouver Island’s power supply comes from the Lower Mainland, the John Hart generating facility ensures the province’s second largest load centre has reliable power.
The project will foster economic development in the region – creating about 400 jobs and sustaining them over five years of construction.
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.
“BC Hydro would like to thank the customer and other stakeholder groups who participated in the regulatory process, government agencies, and local community and business organizations who played a key role in shaping this project,” said BC Hydro executive VP Chris O’Riley.
“Equally important are the agreements we have with Campbell River area First Nations, which will form the foundation for a long-term relationship based on respect.”
Next steps in the project include obtaining legislative approval of a parks boundary adjustment and choosing a preferred proponent to design and build the project.
The John Hart Generating Station Replacement project involves constructing a new water intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam by replacing the three 1.8-kilometre long pipelines with a 2.1-kilometre long tunnel; constructing a replacement generating station beside the existing station and building a new water bypass facility.
There are three main reasons for the project:
Safety: the generating station and pipelines may not withstand a low to moderate earthquake.
Reliability: the six generating units are in poor condition and their capacity is declining.
Environment: an unplanned generating station shutdown and river flow reduction would harm fish habitat.
Project benefits include:
Protecting fish: if the replacement generating station was forced out of service, the new water bypass facility would allow for continued river flow to protect fish and fish habitat.
Smaller footprint: reducing BC Hydro’s facility footprint by removing the three pipelines that are 3.66 metres in diameter and1.8-kilometre long.
Powering Vancouver Island: ensuring a continuous supply of reliable, clean and cost-effective energy to Vancouver Island customers. After the project is completed, the John Hart power supply will increase by more than seven per cent – from 778 gigawatt hours per year to 835 gigawatt hours or enough power to supply about 80,000 homes.
Reducing seismic risk: increasing the seismic withstand of the water conveyance and generating station facilities – reducing the potential environmental, financial, social and safety impacts from an earthquake.