si-nb-mactaquac-dam-220

NB Power officials are already holding meetings with citizens to discuss the future of the Mactaquac dam. (CBC)

NB Power is considering the possibility of rebuilding the Mactaquac Generating Station itself or entering into a partnership with another company as it prepares for the hydro dam’s future.

The Mactaquac dam was built in the mid-1960s and was scheduled to operate for a century. But an ongoing chemical reaction in the concrete of the dam has led to its lifespan being shortened to 67 years, ending in 2030.

The utility is looking at refurbishment cost of between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Gaëtan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, said partnerships with Prince Edward Island helped build the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station and the Dalhousie Generating Station.

However, Thomas said it's still too early to have discussions with potential partners about rebuilding the dam.

"These mega projects are easier to justify if some of the output is guaranteed through some power purchase agreements or other agreements of that sort," he said.

He said the utility wants to hear from the public on various options for the dam first before it decides on a course of action.

"The right thing to do here is to make sure we meet the expectations. We understand the concerns of the people and we are talking to the people, a couple years ahead of our environmental impact assessment," Thomas said.

"I think it's a way of the future. Sometimes, in the past, we started the EIA then talked with people and and so we want their input before the studies are started."

Thomas said in March the utility will have to make a decision on the dam’s future between 2018 and 2020, if work on a new generating station is to begin around 2021.

The uncertainty over the dam’s future is raising questions about what might happen to the head pond and properties around the hydro dam.

Thomas and several other executives accepted an invitation to a meeting on Tuesday night with people concerned about the dam's future.

The future of the Mactaquac dam became a major public issue in 2010 when the former Liberal government’s plan to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec fell apart.

Hydro-Québec indicated the complexity of upgrading the dam was one of the reasons it gave up on the power deal.

Mactaquac is the largest hydroelectric generation station in the Maritimes.