Waneta expansion clears milestone

The Waneta expansion project has reached a milestone with the completion of powerhouse excavation.

The Waneta expansion project has reached a milestone with the completion of powerhouse excavation, partners Fortis Inc., Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust announced today.

More than 50,000 truckloads have hauled about 230,000 cubic metres of overburden and 141,000 metres of rock from the construction zone to the main site seven kilometres away.

This rock will be reused in future highway and other infrastructure projects in the area.

“We’re really pleased with the progress of the project, we just recently finished the blasting of the tunnels, we also have completed the blasting of the powerhouse and at the end of the month we should be finished blasting the intake,” said Wally Penner, regional project manager for contractor SNC Lavalin.

“What’s going to be happening from now on is a lot of rebar and concrete work and we’re hopeful in about a month we’ll start to move the draft tubes that have been assembled at the main site.”

The $900-million project will see the completion of a second powerhouse to share the hydraulic head created by the existing Waneta Dam, owned by Teck and BC Hydro.

An intake structure will flow from the Waneta headpoint through two parallel tunnels that will supply two Francis turbines in the new powerhouse.

The 335-megawatt hydroelectric project will generate enough power to supply 60,000 homes annually – a unique opportunity to obtain large amounts of clean hydroelectric energy without building a new dam.

“We’re actually constructing a facility right adjacent to an existing dam that’s operating so we have to make sure we time it with the operator as well when we’re excavating and blasting to ensure we don’t affect the dam in any way,” said Audrey Repin, spokesperson for the project. “It’s really critical that we need to work closely with the owner of the dam and with the contractor of this project to make sure everything goes smoothly.”

Work that began in 2010 is expected to be complete by 2015. Early this year, attention will be focused on the completion of the traveling form for the tunnel linings, continued blasting at the intake and work in the powerhouse and service bay areas.

Construction remains mainly on schedule, according to Penner.

There are about 200 employees currently working on site, 80 per cent who are local and 11 per cent from equity groups. The project is expected to provide $200 million in wages and benefits and the equivalent of more than 400 jobs during its construction. Currently, more than $72 million has been injected into the local economy through the purchase of goods and services.