Making It Happen

Road Boss Bill Richards uses a pocket clinometer to survey a new road up Glacier Creek Canyon.  His toughest assignment – a road over the mile-high Kildala Pass.  “Man Against the Kildala,” in Harvester World, an International Harvester publication

Photographed by the International Harvester Company

"The whole Project was one of taming the wilderness bringing it under human control, the whole notion of reversing water patterns and drilling ten mile tunnels through the rock so the water that used to go east would now go west... we lived there, we were in the middle of this wilderness - because that's what it was - there were no other communities around, and yet we weren't really part of it. We were there to blast or build roads or construct a transmission line through that wilderness but as part of a family living in the community at the time I don't recall that we really went out and embraced that wilderness." (Sheila Charneski, early resident, Wachwas Camp, Kemano)

The Kitimat Project was an immense revision of geography. All that earth moving came with strict deadlines.

" ...the first - what is now called 'The Critical Path'... was to get started on the power works - the tunnel and the powerhouse and the roads to get to it. So we opened up the Kemano beachhead first and established a camp in the valley to start work on the tunnel, and then, at about the same time, we had another approach from Tahtsa Lake. We built barges in sections which were powered by huge outboard motors to get material up to where the tunnel was to start. There was no road in there. There was no road there when the Project was finished and everything was built. The only... access was by float plane or by these barges which were built in sections, and then by rail and truck to the lakes. I guess it was Ootsa Lake where they were assembled. I think some of them were assembled - we built a rough road right into the foot of Tahtsa Lake." (John Kendrick)

Between 1951 and 1954, 6,000 construction workers made it happen building the power development - dam, tunnel, powerhouse, transmission line - the smelter, and the town. By 1954, Alcan would harness one-half million horsepower of electricity, at great cost.

Every item for camp living and construction had to be transported in - by air, barge, and overland. Fourteen Sikorsky S-55 helicopters were used as workhorses and load carriers during construction and took men and materials to otherwise inaccessible spots. Without these helicopters, Project engineers would not have maintained the construction schedule.

Workers had to endure isolation and hardship. The magnitude and complexity of the 'nuts and bolts' was staggering. Parts of it - the smelter's deep-sea caisson dock, the aluminum transmission tower - were invented for the Project. All were major feats of engineering and construction.

Barge breaking through the channel from West to East Tahtsa.