Once-in-a-lifetime chance to go underground at John Hart project

Here’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tour the underground works of the new $1-billion John Hart Generating Station replacement project near Campbell River.

Visitors with tickets can visit the 10-storey-tall powerhouse at Vancouver Island’s newest mega-project on Sept. 16. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. July 11 through Tidemark Theatre: tidemarktheatre.com.

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Each ticket is $5 and there is a limit of eight per purchase. A total of 1,240 tickets are going on sale.

Proceeds go to North Island College’s apprenticeship scholarship program.

B.C. Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson said Monday the first of three turbine-generators are expected to be operating in July and the other two will come online by October when the facility is commissioned.

Previous community events have been held at the site, but none have gone underground before. Watson said construction will be halted for the day.

B.C. Hydro decided to replace the existing John Hart Station because it was feared the nearly 70-year-old facility would not be able to withstand an earthquake. B.C. Hydro hired InPower B.C. as general contractor.

Blasting began in late 2014 on a tunnel to carry water. Everything is super-sized with the project. A total of 300,000 cubic metres of rock was taken out — enough to fill 120 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Now, four years later, construction is nearing an end. The project resulted in about 400 jobs.

Water is running through underground tunnels and Brewster Lake Road across John Hart dam has reopened.

Decommissioning work on the old above-ground facilities will begin in October.

The tour buses will leave Shoppers Row, in front of Spirit Square, starting at 9:30 a.m., continuing every 10 minutes until 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 16. Ticket holders must be at least 10 years old. The trip will be about 70 minutes.

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