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

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Cathy Browne is very proud of her new front door. All the new doors are lovely and create an individual look for each room. Photo submitted
Courtenay’s Glacier View Lodge dressing up its doorways for residents

Glacier View Lodge’s vision of ‘feels like home’ has been enhanced this… Continue reading

Ginette Matthews shows off some of the wares at The Local Refillery. Photo by Femke Overmaat
Pandemic meant going digital quickly for Courtenay’s Local Refillery

Owner Ginette Matthews says system keep business open in its early months

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
Comox Valley RCMP asking public to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Tom Lennox finds peace when he runs in the Cumberland Forest. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly a year. Photo supplied
Cumberland runner nears 366 consecutive days on the trails

Cumberland resident Tom Lennox has been running a minimum of five kilometres… Continue reading

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Most Read