Overhead power line route back in play

TRAHVOL spokesperson Maureen Broadfoot addresses the media at a press conference in Vancouver last December. The group is not surprised that the B.C. Transmission Corpoation is once again looking at replacing the existing powerlines through Tsawwassen with overhead lines.

By Philip Raphael
South Delta Leader
praphael@southdeltaleader
Apr 07 2006

Deal or “old” deal. That’s what the B.C. Transmission Corporation is saying in its final submission to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) on the issue of routing upgraded power lines through parts of residential Tsawwassen. According to information from BCTC, if it is not successful in trading its existing overhead power line rights with local home owners—who have the cables running through their properties along a 50-year-old right-of-way—for rights to put the lines underground, the utilities commission should order construction of a new overhead set of lines. The existing lines—which carry electricity to Vancouver Island customers via an undersea cable from Tsawwassen Beach—are nearing the end of their useful life. And to meet the replacement set’s in-service date of October 2008, BCTC is calling for a possible return to an overhead option. BCTC stated that it be granted 90 days to reach an agreement with landowners to exchange rights. “If, following 90 days, BCTC is unsuccessful in obtaining an exchange of rights with a majority of landowners, BCTC believes that the additional cost and risks associated with underground construction cannot be justified and the Commission should order overhead construction on the existing right-of-way.” Many residents believed the overhead route was off the table when BCTC announced two months prior to the last provincial election in May 2005 that overhead lines were no longer part of its plan. One person not surprised with the apparent switch-back is Cecil Dunn, a founding member and chair of protest group TRAHVOL (Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines). “They (BCTC) never really took that option off the table,” he said, adding residents have made it clear they would strongly oppose any moves by BCTC to acquire underground rights. Some have even vowed to commit acts of civil disobedience if the BCUC chooses the existing right-of-way route. They prefer a route away from residential land. “But it looks like we may be back to the 100-foot towers (double the height of the existing ones) they had proposed from the start,” Dunn said. “They are trying to blackmail residents by providing us with two bad choices to choose from, rather than pursuing a route outside of Tsawwassen.” At the centre of residents’ fears is that the lines emit powerful electro magnetic fields (EMF) that some critics say are linked to health risks such as some forms of cancer. Plus, moving the lines from overhead to underground would cause major disruption to the landscaped backyards of affected residents. “This is yet another example of an arrogant Crown corporation trying to ride roughshod over the public,” Dunn said. Just when a decision will be made on where the lines will go is still unknown as one of the longest public hearings in recent memory on a public utility enters its closing stage. “Right now the commissioners are sorting through about 40 volumes of transcripts from the public hearings,” BCUC secretary Robert Pellatt said, adding that amounts to roughly 6,000 pages of testimony from the hearings that spanned Feb. 6 to March 23. Closing arguments in the case are now being submitted. And according to the BCUC web site ( //www.bcuc.com ) the last phase of that process is scheduled to be concluded by the end of May. However, BCTC has posted an expected decision date on its web site ( //www.bctc.com ) for July.

© Copyright 2006 South Delta Leader

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