HUDSON’S HOPE, B.C. – The W.A.C Bennett Dam will reopen to visitors for the first time in two years this spring, but tours of its underground powerhouse have been permanently closed.

Bus tours will return May 21, but the mechanical underbelly of the dam has been closed to tourists for security and safety reasons, according to BC Hydro.

Spokesman Bob Gammer says the closure is adhering to new standards and regulations set by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which no longer allow visitors in the powerhouse.

“We have to modify our security, and it’s been a gradual thing, it’s not an all-at-once thing,” said Gammer. “We’ve just been gradually implementing more security measures just to comply with the NERC standards, all utilities that are part of NERC in North America are doing the same as well.”

Bus tours will travel over the crest of the dam to the west viewpoint above the spillway and then back to the visitor centre. Gammer said visitors will still be welcome to enjoy the centre, which hosts interactive exhibits and films.

“It employs local students,” Heiberg said. “I know it’s not the same experience, but it’s still something.”

Eight tour guides are expected to be hired this summer, matching staff levels from previous years.

“We began running the over-the-dam tours a couple of years ago, prior to the pandemic starting when everything had to be locked down,” Gammer said. “We got very good feedback from visitors at that time, and so we knew this was certainly something that was welcome. And so we’ve moved over to this.”

The 2022 season is currently planned to start in May and end in September.