Communication was key for Waneta

Communication with the community contributed to the success of the Waneta Expansion Project near Trail

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Audrey Repin talking to Keith Powell.

Audrey Repin explains to Keith Powell, publisher of Kootenay Business magazine, how the managers of the Waneta Expansion Project worked closely with the local community. — Robert Hawkins photo

Audrey Repin knows the importance of effective communication. As the spokesperson for the Waneta Expansion Project, she was the go-to for everything from public relations to stakeholder negotiations. She has also been responsible for fostering good relationships with various interest groups—one of them being the local community.

“There has been extreme involvement with the local community on this project,” said Repin.

It started with a Community Impact Management Committee (CIMC), which was formed early on to discuss and address issues resulting from the construction of the Waneta expansion. This committee, which included mayors, regional directions, representatives of First Nations communities, RCMP, fire department officials and local residents, met on a monthly basis. Each meeting included a tour of the facility followed by presentations from the owners, contractors and key stakeholders. CIMC members also received weekly updates on the project’s progress. This way, there was little opportunity for issues to go unaddressed.

“So when you deal with an issue right away,” said Repin. “It doesn’t linger.”

Knowing the mentality of fellow Kootenay residents (she’s from Castlegar), Repin understood the negative feelings some may have toward hydroelectric dams. That’s why it was important for Repin and those managing the project to be honest in their practices.

“You can’t turn your back on community,” said Repin. “You have to be honest and accountable, and then you have pride because when you bump into somebody at the soccer field or at Safeway, you don’t have to turn away because you’ve done everything you could in full integrity.”

The Waneta Expansion Project is considered a model for other hydroelectric projects. Gaining input from the community, along with having a good plan and management team to implement it, contributed to its success. 

Kirsten Armleder

Kirsten is a staff writer and photographer for Kootenay Business who enjoys learning more about the people who help this region thrive. View all of Kirsten Armleder’s articles

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