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BC Hydro takes next step in John Hart renovation project

CAMPBELL RIVER, British Columbia, Canada 3/15/12 (PennWell) -- BC Hydro has taken the next step toward a US$1.35 billion overhaul of its 126-MW John Hart Generating Station.

The corporation says it will proceed with an environmental and regulatory review application for the John Hart upgrade and renovation project, which seeks to address safety, reliability and environmental issues surrounding the 65-year-old facility.

The upgrades were first announced in August 2010.

The company's goal is to complete the regulatory processes and award the construction contract by summer 2013, according to a release, with the first replacement generating unit in-service by 2017 and completion of the project scheduled for 2018.

"There is a real sense of momentum as we take these significant steps forward in the various approval processes required for the proposed John Hart project," BC Hydro Vice President of Generation Chris O'Riley says.

BC Hydro says the hydropower facility, on Vancouver Island near Campbell River, has seen a decline in output due to six turbine generators that are in "poor condition."

The company also says the facility is susceptible to seismic activity and that a partial or full station outage would significantly impact river flows and wildlife.

As such, the project calls for the replacement of three existing 1.8-kilometer-long penstocks with a 2.1-kilometer tunnel through bedrock; construction of a replacement generating station beside the existing station; construction of a replacement water intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam; and construction of a new water bypass facility.

Included in the new generating station will be three 46-MW turbine units, which will replace the six current 21-MW units.

BC Hydro's next steps include filing a federal Environmental Assessment Report with Fisheries and Oceans Canada later this month, along with a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application with the British Columbia Utilities Commission later this spring.

The dam was one cited in July 2011 by a BC Hydro dam safety report for further examination.

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