Stories & Features

Why a 98-year-old shut down a turbine at John Hart

Image of Georgean Price and family
Flanked by her family, Georgean Price stands beside the generation unit shutoff at John Hart Generating Station at Campbell River. She had the honour of shutting down the turbine as part of a project to replace six aging turbines at the power station.

Widow of generating station's first plant manager was the perfect choice

It was almost 70 years ago that Georgean Price moved into Hydro Hollow, a small community near Campbell River built to house John Hart Generating Station workers and their families. Her late husband Art, the first plant manager at the BC Hydro powerhouse, would have loved the role she played last month.

Georgean, 98, was the one tasked with the manual shutdown of the first of six aging turbines soon to be replaced as part of a massive project to move and upgrade the powerhouse on Vancouver Island's Campbell River.

"This is a very proud moment for me," said Georgean, who seems to have aged much better than the power station that – at a mere 70 years – is almost three decades younger. "I am honoured to represent my husband Art, my family and the Power Pioneers who have worked at John Hart over the years."

You could write a book about it (and the Power Pioneers did just that)

The Power Pioneers are BC Hydro's amazing group of retirees and retiree family members who dedicate themselves to "supporting our communities and supporting each other." They have a 75-year tradition of raising funds and providing volunteer support for local charities, and they make preserving history a priority. The story of Hydro Hollow (we've published an excerpt online) is part of the Power Pioneers' latest book People, Power & Progress, which tells the story of the John Hart Dam and other Campbell River projects.

As a Power Pioneer and a former resident of Hydro Hollow, Georgean figures prominently in the book. She's part of three BC Hydro generations: her son Gordy Price and grandson Chris Thompson have both been working on the John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project.

A few years ago, Georgean looked back on what it was like to raise a family at Hydro Hollow.

"The Hydro children who were fortunate enough to have been raised in the town site will tell you that it was the best time of their lives," Georgean wrote in a story published on BC Hydro's employee website. "The children had the freedom to wander out and about living in nature's back door in the middle of [Strathcona Provincial Park]. Families not only lived there, they grew up there. My husband became the superintendent and hired many of the town site children, who have gone on to hold key positions throughout Hydro's workforce."

In the story, Georgean said her husband worked closely with local fisheries officials to monitor flows on the Campbell River to protect fish, a practice that continues today. She also talked about Art using a BC Hydro snow cat to help local search and rescue missions, "loading it into the belly of a large helicopter and flying off into the mountains to assist."

Image of Art Price
Art Price was the first plant manager at the John Hart powerhouse near Campbell River.

By the end of 2018, a new powerhouse will be in operation

Georgean shut down the first generator to allow for substation upgrades, which will receive power from the new underground powerhouse after completion of the $1.098 billion project in 2018. The other five generating units in the existing John Hart Generating Station will be permanently shut down in 2018.

The key components of the generating station replacement project are:

  • Replacing the generating station with new generating units and other equipment, and building it underground at a location about 500 to 600 metres uphill from the existing facility.
  • Replacing the original three 1.8 kilometre water pipelines feeding the generating station with a single, 2.1 kilometre tunnel through rock.
  • A new water intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam.
  • A new water bypass facility.

Take a 360-degree tour of the work on the John Hart Generating Replacement project, or get project details on our John Hart project pages.

Interested in buying a copy of the People, Power & Progress book? It's available for $25 from the Power Pioneers.