BCHydro $52M project nears finish at Long Beach

By this time next year the West Coast will be twice as powerful.

BC Hydro’s $52 million Long Beach Area Reinforcement Project is hugging its final corner and is expected to be complete in the next 12 months.

The Great Central Lake and Long Beach substations are both 50 years old and nearing capacity so Hydro is replacing them with new transformers that have over twice the capacity, according to Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers.

“The project consists of replacing the two existing substations with the upgraded substations providing additional capacity to ensure we can meet the reliability needs and increased power needs of the West Coast for the next 30-50 years,” she said.

“It’s a significant investment into our transmission infrastructure.”

This investment carries an estimated price tag of $52 million. Louwers said the investment was needed because of the West Coast’s rising energy demands, which go up by about 1 per cent each year.

“For reliability reasons and to ensure that we could continue to meet the needs of the West Coast we needed to reinvest into our infrastructure,” she said.

Hydro kicked off the project last year and the final construction contract has been awarded to Nanaimo-based FM Installations who are expected to start this month and will take about 12 months to finish up.

“By summer 2015 we expect the new substations to be commissioned and then once commissioned the old equipment and redundant structures will be removed,” Louwers said.

She advised highway commuters can expect to see an increase in truck-traffic along the Highway as equipment and people are delivered to the sites.

At the Long Beach site, Hydro developed a Construction Environmental Management Plan that included plans for emergency spill response, hazardous materials management, sediment control, environmental monitoring, and site restoration, according to Louwers.

“It’s a way to ensure that we protect the sensitive environment that the substation exists in,” she said adding the project has not run into any environmental incidents to date.

The tree-clearing work at the Long Beach substation was completed by the Ucluelet First Nation in March, according to Louwers.

She said further clearing around the substation will occur in late 2014 and early 2015 to make room for roughly 512 metres of rerouted transmission line along Highway 4.

reporter@westerlynews.ca