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Waneta expansion project blasts off

The Waneta expansion project is ready to take off with groundwork scheduled to start as early as next Monday.

Groundwork starts soon, community stakeholders hear at second meeting

The Waneta expansion project is ready to take off with groundwork scheduled to start as early as next Monday.

“Up until now we’ve been preparing the ground but now we’re getting ready to start blasting,” said Columbia Power Corporation spokesperson Audrey Repin.

Acting as a liaison between contractors and residents, last week the Community Impact Management Committee held its second meeting to discuss the $900-million project’s status.

With the ground prepped, rock excavation will soon be done on site to make way for the addition of a new generating plant.

To be located just below the dam and existing plant, two large tunnels will bring water to the new powerhouse, which will have two generators. A new 10-kilometre transmission line to BC Hydro’s Selkirk substation will also be built.

“It will take all the water in (via) the existing Waneta Dam facility, tunneling it through the mountain, flowing through powered tunnels and delivering it down to a powerhouse, where mechanical components are used to generate power,” explained Repin.

The project – a joint investment of Columbia Basin Trust, Fortis and the Columbia Power Corporation – will inject $178 million into the local economy through the purchase of goods and services, and supply 400 jobs and $200 million in wages and benefits.

Hiring will continue over the course of the project, with a priority to take on 85 per cent of skilled tradespeople living within a 100-kilometre radius of the dam site.

By Friday, there were already over 100 employees, including carpenters, cement masons, electricians and pipefitters.

“The more diversity you have as a labourer, the longer the employment opportunity,” said Repin, adding that a worker must belong to the appropriate union to land a job.

Information on job opportunities can be found at under “projects.”

The committee, made up of 26 individuals representing government, business, RCMP, community and residential interests, welcomed Cathy Scott May to their team Tuesday.

She will act as a socio-economic monitor – conducting independent analysis in the community and providing quarterly and annual reports during the project, expected to take five years to complete.

“Cathy lives close by and knows the community like the back of her hand,” said Repin, who is pleased to already hear lively discussion on facets of the project like road upkeep and noise that may impact residents.

This 335-megawatt hydroelectric project will be third and largest project to date for Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust.

The 155-MW Arrow Lakes generating station, completed in 2002, cost $270 million and the 120-MW Brilliant expansion project, completed two years ago, cost $207 million.