Fitzsimmons Creek project seeking manpower 

IPP construction should be complete by June 2010

A run of river project slated for Fitzsimmons Creek is seeking warm bodies to get the thing built in the next 15 months.

The project, a 7.5 MW facility planned for the creek that runs between Whistler and Blackcomb and past the village, needs 35 people, according to project manager Jamie Horner.

"We're looking for carpenters, operators, labourers, survey crews, those are the main things," he said.

The project is a joint operation between Ledcor Power Group and Innergex Renewable Energy, which also operates the Rutherford Creek facility on Highway 99, just south of Pemberton. Construction began on the Fitzsimmons facility last May but now it's getting an extra push to get it completed by June 2010.

Electricity will be generated through a single turbine and power generated there, like with all independent power projects in B.C., will be sold to BC Hydro through a purchase agreement. The power will then travel through transmission lines into the Western Interconnection, a power grid that stretches from B.C. to Mexico.

According to Whistler Blackcomb, the project isn't slated for a fish-bearing stream, nor one that's used much for recreation.

Ledcor, the developer of the Ashlu Creek project in Squamish, is handling the construction side of the project while Innergex will handle operations once it's completed.

As far as the job itself, construction workers will likely be doing 10-hour days, 10 on, four off, according to Horner. More people will start working as the snow clears away.

"As the snowline recedes on the mountain, there'll be more and more crew brought on," he said. "And then after that, it depends on the snow and the crew make-up that's required at the time."

Ledcor held a job fair at the TELUS Conference Centre Feb. 25 that drew over 300 applications, according to Horner. That list will have to be whittled down to around 35, but Horner said people who apply will be kept on a database and contacted for other projects, even if they aren't hired for the Fitzsimmons Creek job.

The Fitzsimmons Creek project could be a welcome addition to the construction landscape in the Sea to Sky corridor, one that's quickly eroding as construction on the Sea to Sky Highway draws to a close.

The highway is 80 per cent complete. At its height, the project employed approximately 800 people, but that number was down to 500 just a month ago. Those employees could find themselves out of work once the project is done in the fall.

Horner couldn't say for sure how many people working the highway came to the job fair last week, but he knows there were a few.

"I only saw about a quarter of the people because there was four of us manning the table," he said. "There was a few definitely, I wouldn't want to put a number on it."

Once construction is finished, Innergex will be hiring one full-time principal operator and a part-time operator to provide "continuous operation" for the facility. That's the same number of people who operate the Rutherford Creek plant.

Natalie Closs, a project manager for the Fitzsimmons plant through Innergex, said via e-mail that operators usually have an electro-mechanical engineering background with experience in rotational equipment through "maintenance, commissioning or operating activities."

Operators must be able to prepare budgets, coordinate shutdowns and work on an on-call basis.

Editor's note: Discussion of IPP projects has generated considerable debate recently, including discussion of some people's credentials and motives. Nigel Protter has responded to criticism with a letter that appears on the Pique website, www.piquenewsmagazine.com, under the letters section.

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