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Power line work gearing up

Northwest Transmission LIne to be 344 kilometres long reaching up Hwy37 North
Valard officials Gary Alexcee and Graham McTavish look through a iron-bar cage. It will be lowered into concrete and form the foundation for a large tower structure. The company is installing 1

THE LARGEST construction project ever seen in Terrace is taking shape on a cleared section of land just a few kilometres up from the junction of Hwy16 and the West Kalum Forest Service Road.

There, Valard Construction has started to assemble the pylons, insulators and other material needed for the $561 million Northwest Transmission Line which will reach from BC Hydro’s Skeena Substation south of Terrace to Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North, a distance of 344 kilometres.

A camp at the location that’s large enough for 75 people is slowly filling up as Valard employees arrive.

“We like to hire locally where we can,” says Valard BC vice president Graham McTavish during a recent tour of the site.

“For assembly and foundation, we like to hire locally. When it comes to stringing [of the line itself], that’s fairly specialized and we have to bring in our own people,” he said.

Valard does have an experienced local workforce – people it hired at the beginning of the year to work on a power line project in Fort McMurray. But some are still at work in Alberta on other Valard projects.

“We may not be able to get them back here because of our guys in Alberta,” said McTavish.

The camp contains full food services, laundry and other facilities.

The single rooms are large and have shared bathrooms with another room in what’s called a “Jack and Jill” set up.

Workers spend three weeks in camp and one out with a shift being being 10 hours a day.

Valard will have at least four and possibly five camps along the power line route, anchored by the larger one here and a large one at Bob Quinn.

At construction peak, the company could have upwards of 150 people at its various camps but the total population could be larger because of other companies working on various aspects of the line.

Construction activity is taking place simultaneously at various locations. The activity began early in the new year by clearing a route north of the Skeena Substation toward the Skeena River and at Bob Quinn in the north reaching south.

The seven kilometres  from the Skeena Substation to the Skeena River paralleled an existing line running to the north and it’ll cross the river at the same location of the existing line just before New Remo.

The clearing work was done by the Kitselas First Nation on a contract awarded directly by BC Hydro that follows a policy of involving First Nations in work when work takes place on their traditional territory.

Clearing work for the portion of the line running through Kitsumkalum and that First Nation will benefit.

The Kitsumkalum will also benefit in a different way because the cleared land upon which Valard’s local construction camp and marshalling yard is located belongs to the Kitsumkalum.

“It’s fully serviced with electricity, water and sewer,” says McTavish. “For us, we need to have a yard but when we leave it, it’ll for the long term use of the Kitsumkalum. It’s something they can use.”

Valard will be installing 1,100 towers along the 334km route.

The construction plan is to first prepare all of the foundations.

“Once we’re out of the ground, we’re a bit more comfortable,” said McTavish.

The transmission Line is to be completed by mid-2014.

Valard is planning to be in the region a long time. It has the contract for a 10km 138kv line over a section of mountain to connect the Long Lake run of river project near Stewart into an existing 287kv line which connects to the BC Hydro provincial grid at Meziadin.

And it will be building a 40km line to connect the AltaGas Forrest Kerr run of river project along the Iskut River to the Northwest Tranmission Line’s Bob Quinn substation.

That’s just one of the lines AltaGas will need because of its plans for two other run of river projects in the area.

McTavish reels off a list of other potential work up to and including the construction of a line from the Red Chris copper property near Iskut south to the Bob Quinn substation, the Galore Creek copper property and the Seabridge gold development.

BC Hydro itself is planning work on existing lines and planning for new construction in the region as well to service what promises to be a burgeoning liquefied natural gas industry.

“There’s a lot of work up here as long as governments stay supportive of industry and as long as commodity prices stay strong,” said McTavish.