BC Hydro engineer rides the trails of Fort St. John

Image of Tyson Kaempffer from Port Moody drinking water
When avid mountain biker Tyson Kaempffer is staying near Fort St. John to do work as an engineer on the Site C project, his favourite after-work pursuit is cycling the Cactus Trails built by his friends at the local Blizzard Bike Club.

After working on Site C project, Tyson Kaempffer joins local bike club's rides, races

Tyson Kaempffer lives in Port Moody but considers Fort St. John a second home, as he has spent so much time there in the past few years. And when he has put in a long day working as a BC Hydro engineer on the Site C clean energy project, he heads to the local mountain bike trails.

"I've ridden and raced on those trails," says Kaempffer, who's designing and implementing the geotechnical instrumentation for the future Site C dam and reservoir, devices that will measure everything from health of the dam to landslide movement along the reservoir. "The local bike club holds mountain bike races twice a week, so after work I'll whip down there and do a race with them. Almost every weeknight I'd go down there and ride."

Kaempffer lives in Port Moody with his wife and young child. But he's going to be spending time up north pretty much every month for years to come, as work on the Site C project — a third dam on the Peace River — is now under way.

While actual construction of the dam has yet to begin, work this summer has been limited to site preparation work, mainly vegetation and tree clearing on the north bank of the dam site away from the river. Construction of the worker accommodation camp on the north bank has also started.

Instruments and devices will detect water, ground movement around dam

With a degree in geology and years spent working for a specialty instrumentation company, Kaempffer landed a full-time job with BC Hydro after spending a couple co-op terms with us while going to school at Simon Fraser University. His skills and experience are very much in demand, and he'll be overseeing the planning and installation of a variety of devices that will be installed at the dam and along the reservoir at Site C.

"During the construction phase, we need to monitor what's happening in the rock around the foundation of the dam," he says. "But there's a lot more work long term, for safety monitoring. We work with our dam safety team to make sure, for example, that we can detect if there's a landslide in the reservoir that could cause waves that could threaten the dam. We install telemetry that monitors that and warns of any problems.

"And in the dam, we’ll be able to detect any leakage or movement that we're not expecting. The instruments we install will pick it up and report data out in near real time."

Image of Tyson Kaempffer join local bike club on trails
The Blizzard Bike Club tries to ride year round, but once the snow clears, the Cactus Trails prove popular to both riders and hikers.

Engineer becomes an advocate for local bike club

Fort St. John's Blizzard bike club comes by its name honestly, as they're hardy mountain and road cyclists who continue to ride even when winter arrives. They have video of riders somehow managing to stay upright while cycling on snow-covered roads around Fort St. John. And like so many clubs in B.C., the club rallies its volunteers regularly for trail building, including clearing brush from the popular Cactus Trails network in the spring.

"Once winter is over in Fort St. John, stuff grows like crazy," says Kaempffer. "So there's a lot of brush clearing that has to be done on trails to get them riding again in the spring. And last year, I think it was actually a local cadet group that volunteered to build a bridge over a creek for one trail."