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Replacement of Canada's John Hart hydroelectric plant now under way

John Hart Hydroelectric Plant

The replacement of the 126-MW John Hart hydroelectric plant has begun, following a ceremony that featured British Columbia's Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.

The upgrade is the largest project undertaken by owner BC Hydro since the 1980s, the utility said, and will take five years to complete.

John Hart has been in operation since 1957, but is being replaced due to concerns about its safety, reliability and environmental impact.

"The John Hart facility is 67-years old and is an example of the type of investment required in B.C.'s electrical system to ensure BC Hydro can deliver safe, reliable power today and for decades to come," Bennet, who also serves as the province's Minister Responsible for Core Review, said. "The 10-year rate plan for BC Hydro provides certainty to British Columbians that our growing population will continue to be served, while ensuring that BC Hydro can make the investments in the system it needs to in a cost-effective way."

The B.C. Utilities Commission approved in February plans to replace the 65-year-old hydroelectric project on the Campbell River and to increase its installed capacity to 138 MW. An annual dam safety report for British Columbia found five dam incidents in 2011 that required action, including one at John Hart Dam.

Preparatory work began in Spring 2013 and included road, parking lot and trail realignment, and investigative drilling. Crews have now begun removing trees and excavating the site in preparation for tunneling in the fall for the new generating station's underground penstocks. Construction work is expected to peak in 2016 with 360 workers on-site.

The John Hart upgrade and renovation project seeks to address safety, reliability, and environmental issues. The US$984 million to US$1.18 billion project includes a new replacement intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam, replacement of a 2.1-kilometer tunnel with three 1.8-kilometer pipelines, the construction of a replacement power plant next to the existing one, and building of a new water bypass.

"This is a significant project for BC Hydro and for the Campbell River community," BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald said. "It will help provide reliable service to Vancouver Island for decades to come. We have worked with First Nations and the local community to earn their support for the renewable of this important asset."

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