The powerhouse area is the size of a football field and is 10 storeys deep. Visitors crossed the top level during the tour. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

The powerhouse area is the size of a football field and is 10 storeys deep. Visitors crossed the top level during the tour. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

VIDEO: B.C. tour offers unique underground glimpse of generating station

About 1,250 people expected at sold-out tour on Sunday

Hundreds of people got a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the new John Hart generating station on Sunday during a sold-out tour.

It was the fourth – and final – in a series of annual site tours at BC Hydro’s $1.1 billion facility – and the only one taking visitors to the depths of the new power station.

Tom Helina, a Campbell River resident, was impressed by what he saw.

BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson speaking to visitors at the underground facilities of the new John Hart generating station. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

“Just amazing,” he said. “It’s above amazing. Incredible. Unreal. Spooky too.”

Yellow school buses carried visitors down a bumpy tunnel road to the powerhouse cavern, with its rough-hewn walls and high-powered machinery.

The powerhouse area is the size of a football field and 10 storeys deep. Its lower levels weren’t accessible to visitors, but water could be heard coursing through a water bypass valve below.

Roger LaRose, one of the visitors on Sunday morning, said he was fascinated by the size of the facility.

“Just the sheer magnitude of the underground stuff, that’s pretty interesting,” he said.

Stephen Watson, a BC Hydro spokesperson and tour guide, noted that some of the machinery is already active, so visitors were strictly forbidden from wandering off.

READ MORE: Water flows through the John Hart tunnels

READ MORE: First new generator at John Hart Dam ready to spin

READ MORE: Road closure at John Hart Dam delayed

Members of the public were enthusiastic about the event, he said.

“This is what everyone wants – they want to go underground, drive down the tunnels, go into the powerhouse,” said Watson. “Just to see that reaction from people is so cool.”

About 1,250 visitors were expected for the one-day event. Among the visitors was Donna McCrae, who said she was curious about the technology – especially because she used to live along the Campbell River, which powers the hydro facility.

“I was always interested in the highs and lows of the river,” she said.

About 1,250 people were scheduled to visit the dam during the sold-out tour on Sunday. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Tickets were $5 each and sold out immediately when the box office opened on July 11. High traffic volumes caused the website of Tidemark Theatre, which handled ticket sales, to briefly crash, said Watson.

Any trouble in obtaining tickets for the event was well worthwhile, said Susie LaRose, another underground visitor.

“It was worth it,” she said. “Awesome day.”

Some Campbell River residents on social media asked whether there would be another chance to check out the subterranean site. But there are no plans for another tour, said Watson.

“This was the one and only chance,” he said, citing complicated logistics and safety issues.

“There was a lot of happy people who went on the tour and Sunday but were probably more than that were disappointed,” he said. “I get that.”

The tour took place as BC Hydro prepares to make the facility fully operational. One of three generators at John Hart are now online, and the other two come online next month.

BC Hydro opted to replace the 70-year-old power station for better strength in case of a major earthquake. The facility is also meant to be more reliable and to protect fish habitat downstream.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that two generators are online. According to BC Hydro, one is online, and the other two become operational in October.

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Victoria Wonderland drive-thru show cancelled due to COVID-19

Organizers hope to host a similar event, if restrictions allow, in the new year

Oak Bay High students Mimi Hill and Aine O’Donnell run along the Jack Wallace Memorial Track. The old track is due to be resurfaced. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay track resurfacing delayed

Oak Bay commits $50,000 towards renewed Jack Wallace track

Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Popular Swiftsure yacht race cancelled for second consecutive year

International sailing race hopes to run its 77th event in 2022

Saanich golfer and top B.C. junior and juvenile player Willy Bishop was named to the 2021 Canadian National Junior Golf Squad on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy Jenny Bishop)
Saanich student to tee-off with national golf team

Willy Bishop, 16, named to Canadian National Junior Golf Squad in 2021

The Oak Bay Police Department has announced plans to purchase the municipality’s first electric marked police vehicle. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Electric police vehicle could soon be patroling Oak Bay streets

Oak Bay police plan to purchase first marked electric police vehicle in 2021

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read