Nigel Woods said it's not often that earthworks and civil construction companies get recognized for a job well done; they are typically involved in the early stages of development work, often with the heavy, and unglamourous task of prepping a site, moving the earth and laying the groundwork.
So Woods couldn't help but express his excitement when he learned this week that Coastal Mountain Excavations, his Whistler-based company of 35 years, was a silver award winner of the President's Trade Award from the Vancouver Regional Construction Association's annual "Awards of Excellence."
"It feels great," said Woods of the award, especially given the uniqueness and the challenges of the project that got them the hardware.
"As trade contractors, it's not often that trades get nominated for something like this and especially guys who are the earthworks or civil people. It's very unusual to get recognized."
CME was one of the principal trades at a remote spot last summer close to Lillooet on Seton Lake. They were working for PCL Westcoast, tasked with the multi-million dollar redevelopment of BC Hydro's Bridge River Townsite.
The site, BC Hydro's employee base for its Bridge River Power Project, which generates about seven per cent of British Columbia's electrical supply, is about 100 years old.
Woods called the area a "magical spot" with a rich and interesting history.
The hydroelectric complex is made up of three dams and stores water for four generating stations. The development of the system began in 1927. During the war the townsite became one of the five relocation centres of Japanese-Canadian internees in the Lillooet area.
After World War II, the site was expanded and the power project revived. Powerhouse No. 1 at Bridge River was the largest source of electricity in the province at that time.
Given its age, and the importance of the hydroelectric complex, BC Hydro embarked on a redevelopment project last year that would see ten four-plex residences and one family home built in the area for BC Hydro employees.
One of the biggest challenges was keeping the site up and running while getting the work done, said Woods.
"We were responsible for all the road construction, building excavations and backfill, and all the utility construction complete with water reservoirs and sewage treatment systems that service the townsite," he added.
In addition to keeping the infrastructure working in the middle of an active redevelopment project, CME was also challenged with the remoteness of the site and getting big vehicles to the area.
A CME crew of about a dozen lived at Seton Portage, some commuted to work from Birken, to get the job done.
That's just the nature of the business in recent years said Woods.
Where once CME's work was primarily in Whistler, now as development in the valley dries up he's looking elsewhere — Bridge River, Williams Lake, Vancouver.
"We're trying to find a different way to operate and this is one of them," said Woods. "We're finding that we're doing work much further afield than we used to but to tell you the truth, we've grown up doing some very difficult jobs in and around Whistler in the last 35 years and we're recognized as being about as good as it gets in the civil construction world."
The VRCA will announce its gold award winners at its gala dinner on Oct. 17.