$13M phase of BCHydro project to upgrade Ahousaht, Opitsaht

BC Hydro has completed the first phase of a system upgrade that will increase the energy capacity of Opitsaht and Ahousaht. Hydro finished off phase-one’s task list on Aug. 1 and the second and final phase of the project will be completed next summer.

The current system powering the remote West Coast communities is pushing its limit especially during the winter when heat is in high demand, according to Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers.

She said Hydro expects the new system, once complete, to last an additional 30-50 years.

As was reported in the Westerly, the current system consists of two cables that run from Tofino to Opitsaht and then on to Ahousaht but the new system will see three cables flowing energy through the communities and a fourth cable serving as a backup.

“It’s a commitment we have to make,” Louwers said. “We provide reliable power to communities throughout the province regardless of their location.”

Hydro crews prepared landing sites and terminal poles while a barge was contracted to lay about 2.5 km of submarine cables from Tofino to Opitsaht, according to Louwers.

With this work now complete, Louwers expects the switch to be flipped on Opitsaht’s energy upgrade this fall.

Getting to Ahousaht is not quite as simple as cables must go through several layovers before reaching their final destination.

About 7.7 km of submarine cables were laid from Kakawis to Vargas Island this summer and Hydro will return next year to continue the connection by running 6.6 km of cable from Vargas Island to Chetarpe before hitting the final 4.1 km stretch from Chetarpe to Ahousaht, according to Louwers.

Hydro completed civil construction work in Tofino, Opitsaht and Kakawis with Vargas Island, Chetarpe and Ahousaht on next summer’s docket.

“The work that we did this summer was roughly around $13 million for the crossings that were completed and the civil work that was required as well,” Louwers said adding a firm cost for next year’s work has not yet been finalized.

She said Tofino’s construction work was done in early April to avoid disrupting tourists.

“We worked hard on the Tofino side to get that civil work done as early as we could to minimize the impact to the tourist season that Tofino experiences,” she said adding tourists were not the only hurdles Hydro had to maneuver its work around.

“It does need to happen within certain tide periods as well as the fisheries work window…That really limits the time crews can get out and do this work.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca