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Bidding set to open for seismic work on Island dams

A web portal has been set up for Vancouver Island companies bidding on seismic upgrades for three dams, each valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The work aims to ensure the dams near Campbell River will survive a major earthquake.
TC_210947_web_John-Hart-Dam.jpg
The John Hart Dam generating station replacement project, which cost $1.1 billion. STEPHEN WATSON, B.C. HYDRO

A web portal has been set up for Vancouver Island companies bidding on seismic upgrades for three dams, each valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The work aims to ensure the dams near Campbell River will survive a major earthquake. All three dams are more than 70 years old.

The web portal is at majorprojects.ca.

These long-planned projects will deliver jobs for skilled trades, use materials from local suppliers and hire local services, the B.C. government said. Their massive scope is expected to help the Island recover from economic setbacks caused by the pandemic.

Preparation work at the John Hart dam, where construction is to start first, could open for bidding in summer or fall. The work will begin with features such as roads and earthworks. The hydro-mechanical procurement process will follow, likely late this year or in 2022.

Construction at the John Hart site could begin in late 2023, depending on regulatory and funding approvals.

For the other two dams, Ladore and Strathcona, construction could begin in 2024.

Total anticipated price tag for the three projects is not available yet.

A formal cost estimate for the John Hart Dam project will be released when B.C. Hydro files its application to the B.C. Utilities Commission in late summer or early fall, said B.C. Hydro spokesman Stephen ­Watson.

Estimates for the Ladore and Strathcona dams will be part of applications to the B.C. Utilities Commission in 2022, he said.

A variety of contractors are being sought, including construction and heavy-equipment operating companies, as well as suppliers of materials such as concrete, rebar (reinforcing bar), anchors, structural steel, rock and aggregate.

The dam projects will need mechanical, electrical, ­geotechnical, diving and environmental services, cranes and equipment rentals.

B.C. Hydro and the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce are partnering in the web portal.

Chamber executive director Mary Ruth Snyder said the website is user-friendly and “provides an excellent opportunity for local suppliers and contractors to connect directly with the general contractor who will be overseeing these projects that will each be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

B.C. Hydro’s proposed projects are not just a “tremendous” economic driver, she said. “The projects themselves will ensure long-term safety and stability for our electricity requirements for decades to come.”

This kind of industrial work helps diversify the now-booming construction sector and make it less susceptible in the event of a downturn in other building categories, such as housing, Rory Kumala, president of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, said Wednesday.

If one sector slumped, others would “continue to support our economies,” he said.

Despite the pandemic, the pace of construction has remained strong on the the Island, as companies develop ways to meet new work health and safety protocols. Construction work is typically categorized as residential (single family or multi-family), industrial, institutional and commercial.

A similar portal was introduced in 2011 to find local firms wanting to work on the now-finished John Hart Dam generating station replacement project, which cost $1.1 billion.

Seismic upgrades on B.C. Hydro dams are “bringing some of these bigger industrial ­projects to the Island,” Kumala said.

Although the construction sector is “going flat out,” it faces rising costs for materials, such as soaring lumber prices, and a continuing shortage of skilled labour.

Some firms are saying that instead of holding prices for 30 days, they are looking at 48 hours, Kumala said.

The portal will profile local suppliers and provide detailed information and videos about the B.C. Hydro projects, and the evolving procurement process.

Businesses or contractors that are part of the Campbell River and District Chamber, Vancouver Island chambers, the Vancouver Island Construction Association, and Vancouver Island Economic Alliance who wish to register can click on “register” under the category of “suppliers and job seekers.”

Campbell River Chamber members can register for free.

Members of the other business organizations can register for a one-time fee of $100.

The portal will not be taking individual job applications, but information for those interested in work will be posted on the site closer to the construction period.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com