VIDEO: Work begins on Site C generators

Last big contractor begins work on $470 million job

Political debates on the merits and risks of the Site C dam are quickly becoming academic, with work starting on the turbines and generators for the $8 billion project in northeast B.C. this week.

Voith Hydro Canada was awarded the $470 million contract a year ago to design, build, deliver and install six massive vertical water turbines and generators for the third dam on the Peace River, near Fort St. John. It was the last big construction contract to be awarded for what will be the most expensive construction project in B.C. history, scheduled to begin operating in 2024.

The Canadian subsidiary of a German engineering company, Voith supplied the fifth generator and turbine for Revelstoke dam, equipment for the $800 million refit of the Ruskin dam and powerhouse, and replacement turbines at the W.A.C. Bennett dam, the first dam on the Peace River built in the 1960s.

The first stage of the latest contract is to build a facility at the Site C dam site to manufacture the steel structures for the turbines and generators, said Bill Malus, CEO of Voith Hydro Canada. The company expects to have 150 workers on site at the installation stage, planned for 2022.

Site C has been a political battleground for B.C. in recent years, with the BC Liberals touting the more than 2,000 people working on the site during an oil and gas slowdown. NDP leader John Horgan has vowed to begin an immediate review of all the contracts let for the dam if his party forms a government after the May 9 election.

There were protests and negotiations with the B.C. Building Trades Council as BC Hydro demanded and got an open-shop policy for Site C. The powerhouse and turbines, specialty work performed mostly by millwrights, electricians, pipefitters and boilermakers, are under an exclusive agreement between the building trades and Voith.