Excess rock removed from the John Hart project site stored near Highway 19 north of Campbell River. Photo courtesy BC Hydro

Excess rock removed from the John Hart project site stored near Highway 19 north of Campbell River. Photo courtesy BC Hydro

BC Hydro and Campbell River-area First Nations “rock” the opportunities arising from the John Hart project

About 300,000 cubic metres of rock, or enough to fill about 120 Olympic-sized swimming pools, has been removed from BC Hydro’s John Hart project site.

The John Hart project finished all the underground rock removals last June and final rock removals at the site are currently taking place at the tunnel outlet where water from the tunnels will enter the Campbell River.

So what happened to all the rock and what was it used for?

“Over the years one of the top project related questions was where’s all the rock going?” says BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson. “The answer is: all the excess rock went to Wei Wai Kum and We Wai Kai First Nations to be used or sold as they determine.”

When BC Hydro was originally planning for the project, one of the many issues was what to do with all the excess rock. It turned into a win-win through BC Hydro’s ongoing consultations with First Nations where it was decided that the First Nations would take the rock. It also led to a project direct award, through a First Nation joint venture with A Woods Contracting, to truck the rock off-site.

The 1.1 million tons was trucked from the site and, to date, about 450,000 tons of that has been repurposed by First Nations through economic opportunities.

“The rock has been used for a range of things from developing paving material to fill for our developments and projects,” says We Wai Kai Chief, Brian Assu.

Over the past few months, 40,000 tons of rock has been barged to Quadra Island and used for a new three-kilometre road and waterline from the Cape Mudge Village to the new domestic water wells near Tsa Kwa Luten Lodge. Another 28,000 tons of rock was trucked to the Wei Wai Kum reserve for elders’ housing in a new subdivision.

“We’ve also had some free advertising given the large rock pile beside the highway just north of the old Elk Falls pulp mill,” said Assu. “People enquire about it and then the discussions go from there. The pile is slowly getting smaller.”

Some of the rock was used to help re-build the riverbed during the Salmon River Diversion Decommissioning Project.

“We’ve been in consultations with BC Hydro since 2007 on the John Hart project, as well as with their contractor InPower BC, on many items including the rock,” says Wei Wai Kum Chief Bob Pollard. “We appreciate the tangible things that have come out of the project that benefits First Nations – the use of the rock being one of them.”