The John Hart Dam in Campbell River was built in the mid-1940s, and now it and two others nearby need to be seismically upgraded to protect against a major earthquake.
“In an absolute worst-case scenario water from this dam, if it fails after a major earthquake, could arrive in about an hour in Campbell River and if the Strathcona Dam fails water could arrive in 2.7 hours, so quite quickly,” explained BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.
BC Hydro has studied earthquake scenarios closely and says a magnitude 9.0 earthquake would likely cause a failure at the John Hart Dam or Strathcona Dam, and the projections for downriver flooding are chilling.
The Campbellton area could see flooding in the order of 11 metres high and in downtown Campbell River the water could rise four metres.
“That’s something that would be devastating for downtown Campbell River and Campbellton,” said Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams.
“It’s not like in the movies and the dam fails and a big whoosh of water goes downstream,” added Watson. “It’s likely to be a slow failure but we still have to work with the community and provide a worst-case scenario on how fast that water could arrive downstream.”
The John Hart Dam, the Strathcona Dam and the Ladore Dam will all be seeing varying amounts of work but the estimated $ 750 million project would take four years to finish and create upwards of 400 jobs.
It would be another boost to Campbell River’s economy after BC Hydro just finished the new $1 billion John Hart Generating Station.
“The spin-off to the local economy whether it’s construction or contractors or planners or engineers is significant with these types of projects,” said Adams.
BC Hydro is still in a public consultation phase and construction would not begin until around 2023.