MARC Ouimet

MARC Ouimet

Company gears up to build power line

LOCAL residents should get used to seeing light blue pickup trucks around town.

  • Sep. 21, 2011 5:00 a.m.

LOCAL residents should get used to seeing light blue pickup trucks around town.

That’s the company colour of Valard Construction and as the main construction contractor for BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, it will soon have more than 175 people in the area.

Speaking from its Edmonton, Alberta headquarters last week, Valard president Victor Budzinski said the company will be opening a construction administration office in Terrace and two camps in the region as the 287km line running 344 kilometres  from the Skeena Substation south of Terrace to Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North takes shape.

“Absolutely. Terrace will be our destination. It will be central to our whole plans,” said Budzinski.

The company has had a small office here since last year in the Muks-Kum-Ol Housing Society building on Braun as it and its transmission line project partner, the design firm of Burns and McDonnell, worked on bid documents.

The two companies first made it to a short list and this spring were then chosen as BC Hydro’s preferred contractors while negotiations continued to agree on a final contract.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the area and have been building up relationships,” said Budzinski.

For the time being, the Northwest Transmission Line is the largest of its kind under construction in the country.

Budzinski said Valard has been interested in the line as far back as 2007 when it was first announced and then abruptly shelved by the provincial government when construction on what was then to be its main customer, NovaGold and Teck Cominco’s Galore Creek copper and gold mine was stopped because of cost overruns.

“It’s pretty exciting. It’s going to open up a whole new region,” said Budzinski of the line’s potential.

“There will be companies buying power and ones feeding into the grid,” he added.

Imperial Metals has already said it wants to be the first customer to buy power from the line to feed its Red Chris copper mine property under development near Iskut and Alberta’s AltaGas is building a large run-of-river hydro project on the Iskut River and will sell the power to BC Hydro.

Valard’s contract with BC Hydro does not call for it to commit to a specific level of local hires but Budzinski said it has made and is making arrangements with area First Nations for employment and other development prospects.

“Definitely we view the community as being a bonus to our projects,” he said.

In many ways, Budzinski said Valard regards the Northwest Transmission Line as a foothold for other work in the area.

That’s because of the number of companies, primarily those with mineral properties, who can only proceed if there is reliable and stable power available, and those companies working on run-of-river projects to produce power which needs to be fed into the provincial BC Hydro grid.

“We’re talking to a lot of those companies already,” said Budzinski of the additional business opportunities that could open up for Valard in the region.

“There are construction opportunities and afterward in the life cycle of the lines, they will require maintenance,” he added.

As a company specializing in transmission line construction and other facets of power provision and transmission, Valard was founded in Grande Prairie, Alberta in 1979.

Its head office is now located in Edmonton and last year, was sold to Quanta, an American firm.

Valard’s workforce, either employed directly or through companies it has responsibility for since the Quanta deal, now numbers approximately 900 people.