B.C. Hydro preparing lands for massive John Hart dam seismic upgrading

Work begins mid-month at site near Campbell River

The John Hart Dam near Campbell River is about to get a seismic upgrade costing between $497 million and $882 million | Photo: BC Hydro

B.C. Hydro crews start work mid-month to prepare sites for civil work next year on the ­massive John Hart Dam ­seismic upgrading project near ­Campbell River.

“Given the public traffic across the dam and recreational activities just to the north of the dam, it is important that people be aware in advance of these early works and understand what we are doing there,” B.C. Hydro spokesman Steven Watson said. Motorists can expect intermittent road and trail closures during the work.

“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.”

The cost of the entire project is estimated at between $497 million and $882 million.

Once completed in 2029 the dam is expected to be able to survive a major earthquake.

Work starting shortly will see B.C. Hydro crews create construction laydown areas (where materials are stored) and remove trees at laydown sites. They will also relocate power lines and a boat ramp.

John Hart facilities are surrounded by Elk Falls Provincial Park.

Tree falling will take place in various locations near the dam. They will be taken out mainly with the use of a feller-buncher machine and the trees will be provided to First Nations, B.C. Hydro said. Stumps and wood debris will be removed from laydown sites and top soil will be taken out to ready land for grading.

Along with the trees coming out for laydown reasons, ­others will be removed to protect ­workers, the utility said.

Trees are coming down outside of bird nesting season which means that will not hinder the start of work at the dam.

A similar practice was ­carried out for the John Hart Generating Station replacement project.

B.C. Hydro’s own boat launch — which is not used by the public — is being relocated to a site closer to Campbell River’s water treatment building. It will be outside of the area where new upstream earth-filled berms and water turbidity containment are located. The turbidity system consists of a floating boardwalk with two silt curtains hanging down to the floor of the reservoir on either side.

The B.C. Utilities Commission is continuing to review the project, as it does for all projects of more than $100 million in value

The contractor for civil workers will be announced this fall, for work next summer.

The project is anticipated to result in about 600 person years of work. About 100 people will work on the site at any one time.

The 2,624-foot-long-dam was built in the 1940s and B.C. Hydro has determined it is due for a seismic upgrade. B.C. Hydro is also planning seismic upgrades to its Ladore and Strathcona dams, also in the Campbell River system. The upgrading will include new upstream and downstream berms, a spillway gate, a hoist replacement, and a new overflow spillway.

Once the project is finished, laydown areas not needed in the future will be remediated and replanted.

For more information, go to bchydro.com/energy-in-bc/­projects.html

Times Colonist