Hupacasath-Catalyst start work on Alberni dam

Crews have begun work rebuild the Robertson Creek Dam. The $2 million project is being undertaken by Catalyst Paper Corp. and the Hupacasath First Nation and is expected to take 8-10 weeks to complete.

Crews clear land at the site of the stone Robertson Creek Dam in preparation for constructing a new earthen one.  The $2 million project is being undertaken by Catalyst Paper Corp. and the Hupacasath First Nation and is expected to take 8-10 weeks to complete.

Crews clear land at the site of the stone Robertson Creek Dam in preparation for constructing a new earthen one. The $2 million project is being undertaken by Catalyst Paper Corp. and the Hupacasath First Nation and is expected to take 8-10 weeks to complete.

The long awaited upgrade of the Robertson Creek Dam at Great Central Lake has started.

The $2 million joint venture between Catalyst Paper Corp. and the Hupacasath First Nation is expected to take eight to 10 weeks to complete, Hupacasath CEO Robert Duncan said.

Construction of a new earthen dam is scheduled to be complete by Sept. 15, within a window of minimal fish presence.

Knappet Construction won the contract to do the work.

The dam is located within the traditional territory of the Hupacasath.

It is also located within the boundaries of the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, who were updated about the project last week.

The replacement plan underwent a full environmental assessment under federal regulatory requirements, and has been issued necessary provincial permits.

The project – which has been in the works since 2007 – is being completely underwritten by Catalyst, Duncan said.

The old dam had to be replaced because it’s made of aging timber and is a liability.

“We’ve cleared the area of down timber and overbrush.”

The footprint of the new dam is 720 metres larger than the old one, and its construction standard will far eclipse the old provincial standards of the old one, Duncan said.

Because the new dam has a larger footprint, Catalyst is exercising reciprocity by replacing a culvert with a free-span bridge at the Somass River Estuary near the Catalyst Port Alberni mill.

The transfer of a water license from Catalyst to the Hupacasath is in the works but is contingent on a special land designation from the province, Duncan said.

The tribe is studying different business initiatives that will utilize the new dam, but it’s too early in the process to cite specifics, Duncan said.