New Brunswick

COVID-19 causes delay in summer construction at Mactaquac Dam

Construction on the dam has occurred every summer for the past 30 years to reach its intended lifespan of 2068. 

Construction 1 month behind schedule but set to begin early next week

Repair work on the Mactaquac Dam is expected to start on Monday and last until the end of September. (Terry Seguin/CBC)

Beachgoers and cottagers heading into the country haven't been forced to stop at a red light while crossing over the Mactaquac Dam so far this summer. 

That's because the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed repairs on the dam between Fredericton and Mactaquac Provincial Park. 

"We're about a month late, but we're ready to start very soon," said Marc Belliveau, a spokesperson for NB Power.

Construction happens every summer on the Mactaquac Dam, slowing heavy traffic that's mostly made up of cottagers, boaters, park visitors and people living in the area.

Construction is set to begin on Monday, but crews will start setting up the construction site this week. 

Delay in planning pushes back construction

Belliveau said annual planning sessions for the repair work were pushed back after the global pandemic reached New Brunswick in March.

"A lot of workers are not on site and it makes things a little more difficult," he said. 

NB Power also had an issue trying to get cranes on site. That's because the cranes needed for the work site weren't available to the utility just yet. 

"To get them all at the same time, sometimes there's a challenge there," Belliveau said. "It could've been a job that went late because of weather."

Repair work on the Mactaquac Dam has been happening for the past 30 years. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Flaggers will be on site for the first two weeks of construction, and then traffic will be down to one lane until the project is finished.

Work is expected to be completed by Sept. 25.

"We try to avoid the fall as much as possible because of school."

Belliveau said the utility doesn't expect the delay to have much of an impact on when construction is finished.

"It's a necessity every year because it's such an important generation asset for us." 

What are they working on?

Since the 1980s, concrete on the dam has been expanding due a chemical reaction known as alkali-aggregate reaction.

"The repairs at the dam, on a much, much larger scale mind you, are the same that would be done on the foundation of a house," he said.

"Where you have a crack, it's filled in with the compound and it fixes the problem." 

He said construction has been taking place every summer for the past 30 years to get to its intended lifespan of 2068. 

"A big part of that job is fixing the concrete on the dam," he said. 

Crews required to keep their distance 

Belliveau said crews are expected to maintain their physical distance as much as possible next week. If they can't, workers will then wear masks. 

"We have corporate procedures in place as well as WorkSafeNB protocols to protect the workers, including active screening, social distancing and personal protection equipment."

There can be a minimum of four people working at a work site at one time. However, because there are multiple work locations on the dam, there can be more than 10 people.

"Our number one priority all the time is the safety of our workers and the public," Belliveau said.