Stories & Features

The lights are on at the new John Hart Generating Station

Image of the underground powerhouse at the John Hart Generating Station
Beneath the surface: the new powerhouse for the generating station is located entirely underground.

Project took 12 years, $1.093 billion, and partnership with the community and First Nations to come to life

Originally built in 1947, the John Hart Generating Station was in need of an upgrade and expansion to make sure we could continue to provide clean, reliable power to Campbell River and the surrounding communities. In December 2018, after initiating the project in January 2007, we marked a huge milestone on a huge project: the new generating station is now operationally in-service.

The three turbines and water bypass facility are now operating. It's the largest construction project by dollar value we've ever undertaken on Vancouver Island, and the new facility will generate about 10% more electricity than the aging one it replaced, or enough to supply about 80,000 homes.

The new facility will be better able to withstand an earthquake, continue to provide reliable power supply, and protect downstream fish habitat from unplanned flow reductions from the station.

New turbines, a new water bypass facility – and a better outlook for salmon

While a driver for upgrading the facility was seismic stability, that wasn't the only benefit of the new underground powerhouse. Improvements to fish habitat were also realized, thanks to the new equipment and the new design by contractor InPower BC.

The new water bypass facility within the powerhouse will make sure that if one or all three of the new generators shut down for any reason, downstream river flow can be maintained for fish and fish habitat.

The local community also saw new benefits throughout the project, including:

  • Supporting construction of the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge, which attracts about 200,000 visitors per year;
  • Funding for a new and more reliable City of Campbell River water withdrawal and treatment facility for 35,000 people
  • More greenspace, once areas like the old 1.8-km-long pipeline corridor are returned to forest to better fit with the surrounding Elk Falls Provincial Park.
Image of the low-level outlet at the John Hart Generating Station
Attendees at an event marking the project completion take a look at the new low level outlet facility, below the John Hart Dam, where water is provided down Elk Falls Canyon for fish habitat.

Community, First Nations partnerships key to success

One of the hallmarks of the project was the partnership created between BC Hydro, the local community of Campbell River, and a renewed relationship with the local First Nations through the entire construction period. Over the course of the project, we put in the time to meaningfully consult with First Nations, looking for opportunities to reset what had been a challenged relationship. The end result is a positive relationship where we can move forward, thanks in large part to the opportunities and discussions that arose from the John Hart project.

The final construction touches of the project go into early 2019. The old facility will be removed by the end of summer 2019.