Residents of Lake Cowichan gathered in Saywell Park last Wednesday to watch a rare spectacle. BC Hydro used a helicopter to replace aging hydro poles near the weir in the middle of town. Saywell Park was blocked off with barricades, and Hydro workers cordoned off the area to keep residents out of harm’s way.
In windy, cloudy conditions, the helicopter pilot skillfully carried the concrete blocks and tall power poles to their specific positions on the small island at the town’s weir. The pilot deposited the tall poles in the appropriate holes with exceptional speed and accuracy, manoeuvring around the old power poles and lines with expertise.
“Today is a result of probably two and a half years of planning,” says Al Pineau, Manager of BC Hydro for Construction Services, Line Department.
Despite this being a common practice, the weather made things a little difficult.
“Mother Nature’s giving us a bit of a kick now with the wind and the [low] visibility for the pilot, who is 150 feet above the load,” says Pineau.
But despite the inclement conditions, the helicopter pilot made quick work of the task.
Lake Cowichan resident Rocky was at the park walking his dog, Cash, when the helicopter arrived. Rocky normally takes Cash for a swim the in the lake, but the park was closed while the Hydro operation was in progress. Rocky and Cash didn’t seem to mind too much.
“The poles need to be replaced,” says Rocky. “They’ve been there for a really long time now.”
The poles were supposed to go up on Tuesday but one source said the logging trucks carrying the poles had trouble getting around a tight corner into the park to drop off the poles.
The poles that are being replaced were wooden ones installed in 1957. The new poles are also wooden, which surprised Rocky.
“I thought they would be metal or something else,” says Rocky, watching the Hydro workers in action.
The crowd of onlookers dispersed as the helicopter pilot finished his work without incident, wrapping up this project that was straightforward for Hydro workers such as Pineau, but exciting for town residents.
Pineau stated the township, Chamber of Commerce and the town’s businesses made the project an easy one.
“It’s been a great place to work,” says Pineau. “The township got involved right from the beginning and supported us all the way.”
After the helicopter dropped off the necessary materials, Hydro workers scaled the poles and finished installing them. Four aged poles were replaced in total.