Work on a $1B project to replace the John Hart generating station in British Columbia, Canada, has officially begun, utility BC hydro has announced.

Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Core Review, helped kick off construction of the largest infrastructure project undertaken by BC Hydro since the 1980s.

The new project, which will see capacity increase at the 67-year old station from 121MW to 132.2MW, includes construction of a replacement water intake at the John Hart spillway dam, replacement of three 1.8km long penstocks with a 2.1km long tunnel, and construction of a new generating station and water bypass facility. The new generating station will be underground and further up the site – not directly beside the river.

Construction will peak at about 360 jobs in 2016. Preparatory work started in the spring of 2013 and included road, parking lot and trail realignment and investigative drilling. This month, construction crews are beginning to remove trees and excavate the site to get it ready for tunnelling in the fall for new underground penstocks that will lead to a new generating station.

BC Hydro will continue to operate the existing generating station during construction. InPower BC won the contract through a procurement process, to design and build the John Hart project and has been working closely with BC Hydro since November 2013.