Too good to be true — Mactaquac Dam construction begins during final weeks of summer

·2 min read
Construction on the dam between Fredericton and Mactaquac Provincial Park was delayed until mid-August and started last week. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
Construction on the dam between Fredericton and Mactaquac Provincial Park was delayed until mid-August and started last week. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Sorry, boaters — the drive out to Mactaquac just got a little bit longer.

Every summer, construction takes place on the Mactaquac Dam between Fredericton and Mactaquac Provincial Park, slowing heavy traffic that's mostly made up of cottagers, boaters, park visitors and area residents.

Last year the COVID-19 pandemic delayed dam repairs by about a month.

This year, construction was delayed until mid-August because a crane that crews typically use to conduct inspections was in need of upgrades.

"Because the upgrades were extensive, design and procurement of materials took longer than usual, and so we are starting gate inspections along the roadway now," NB Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau said in an email.

"The pandemic had no effect on this work," he said. "It is part of our regular maintenance that has been carried out all throughout the pandemic."

Elizabeth Fraser/CBC
Elizabeth Fraser/CBC

The delay had many people in the area hopeful they wouldn't be held up by construction zone traffic lights this summer.

But last week, Justin McGuigan, chief of North York Fire Department outside of Fredericton, was tipped off to what was coming.

"A week or so ago I spotted the traffic lights sitting in a compound adjacent to the dam and smiled to myself, guessing that the next day we'd have our friends back," McGuigan said.

"Sure enough, the next day the lights and [construction zone] markers were up."


McGuigan created a meme on Facebook about construction on the dam, which people in the area are all too familiar with.

"For those of us who cross the dam each day, construction there is kind of part of our lives and part of our identity now," he said.

With the work underway, McGuigan said, traffic is reduced to one lane and firefighters need to wait for a green light because they're unable to see from one side of the dam to the other.

He said the delay isn't serious and helps smooth out traffic congestion in the construction zone.

"A traffic jam doesn't help anyone, so you just wait."

Work will continue into the fall and is expected to wrap up as early as Nov. 15, before the winter weather moves in.

Elizabeth Fraser/CBC
Elizabeth Fraser/CBC

Why does construction happen?

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

According to the NB Power website, this affects the concrete portions of the Mactaquac Generating Station.

NB Power website
NB Power website

"The movement of the concrete slowly shifts embedded equipment such as turbines, generators, gates and pipes," the dam's website explains.

"This must be addressed, because it can affect the operation of this equipment."

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

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