BCTC believes project will be on schedule

File photo

Residents' group TRAHVOL launched a fundraising calendar in December. This month they are watching the BCUC hearings closely.

By Philip Raphael
South Delta Leader
Feb 10 2006

Despite expected fierce opposition from Tsawwassen residents, B.C. Transmission Corporation (BCTC) officials believe its proposed high voltage line replacement project will remain on schedule. That was part of the opening testimony at the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) public hearings this week in downtown Vancouver. On Monday, lawyer Richard Gathercole, who was representing the BC Old Age Pensioners' Organization, was the first to cross examine a panel of BCTC officials. He questioned whether the project to replace the aging lines could be completed in time to meet its 2008 deadline, at which time the cables are expected to have come to the end of their reliable life. Bruce Barrett, BCTC's Director of Major Projects replied that the project could be pushed back as many as two years past the 2008 deadline. But the reliability of the system, which supplies power to Vancouver Island residents via an undersea cable from Tsawwassen Beach, would steadily decrease. BCTC has proposed to replace the lines, which run along a 50-year-old right-of-way that cuts through a number of residential areas in Tsawwassen, with more powerful ones. About 150 homes have the lines running through their properties, with many buildings constructed close to the lines. Residents, who have formed the opposition group TRAHVOL (Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines,) fear the electro magnetic fields (EMF) the lines give off are a health hazard and should not be routed past homes. They favour an alternate route that sends the lines away from residential areas. Testimony at the hearings, which is expected to last several weeks, will be reviewed by BCUC's commissioners who are tasked with choosing a route for the project. A decision is anticipated once the hearings have concluded sometime next month Another route proposal by Vancouver-based Sea Breeze Pacific Regional Transmission System, Inc. that bypasses Tsawwassen completely by putting the lines underground from North Surrey to White Rock, is also part of the hearings. Among BCTC's route options is placing the cables underground along the existing Tsawwassen right-of-way by trading the current overhead line access for underground access. Residents remain steadfastly against that option and remain unified in their unwillingness to grant BCTC that right. "We would not be able to build there without rights of way granted by a legal proceeding," said BCTC's Barrett under cross examination. "I would point out that it's very common on linear project corridors like this for property owners to strongly resist and indicate that they will oppose to the bitter end. It's very common." While that could provide a delay in the project, Barrett said parts of the project leading up to the contentious residential area could be constructed if homeowners challenge the issue of compensation. However, if the residents' challenge is on the matter of land expropriation to install the lines underground, the matter could take longer in the courts. And he could not prejudge what BCTC would do. Upcoming testimony in the hearings will address the residents' health concerns with noted EMF critic Magda Havas, Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario appearing on behalf of TRAHVOL. Official says 'it's very common' for residents to oppose power projects to bitter end.

© Copyright 2006 South Delta Leader




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