TRAHVOL: hopeful powerline fears heard

Daniel Pi photo

Cecil Dunn, chair of TRAHVOL, speaks about the powerline project during the BCUC town hall meeting Saturday at South Delta Secondary.

By Philip Raphael
South Delta Leader
praphael@southdeltaleader Jan 20 2006

They came. They listened. But did it do any good? “We hope it did,” said Cecil Dunn, chair of TRAHVOL (Tsawwassen Residents Against High Voltage Overhead Lines), referring to Saturday’s (Jan. 14) town hall meeting hosted by the B.C. Utilities Commission. The topic of discussion was the plan to upgrade powerlines that run along a 50-year-old BC Hydro right-of-way that cuts through parts of residential Tsawwassen. The residents fear the health affects of the current lines and oppose changes that could see more powerful lines buried along the route which delivers electricity to consumers on Vancouver Island via an undersea cable from Tsawwassen Beach. Around 50 people, mostly local homeowners who have the lines running through their backyards, got up to address three members of the utilities commission who presided over the meeting held at South Delta Secondary. Many residents made impassioned pleas to abandon the proposal made by the B.C. Transmission Corporation to use the existing right-of-way. Some had their young children by their side as they spoke. Others fought back the tears as they related the illnesses they fear were the result of living near the lines which give off electromagnetic fields (EMF) that some critics believe is linked to incidences of cancer. “It’s hard to believe that someone could not be moved by what people were saying,” Dunn said, adding the three commissioners present remained stone-faced throughout the proceedings. “They certainly were aloof. But there appeared to be plenty note-taking,” Dunn said. “And I suppose that’s better than them sitting there staring at the ceiling.” Dunn said he has been told that in the past similar town hall meetings have not had an appreciative affect on the commission’s final decision. But he remains optimistic the commissioners got the overriding message that high voltage lines are not welcome through residential Tsawwassen. “If it risks the health of just one child, that’s one child too many for the sake of some powerlines,” Dunn said. Also optimistic was fellow TRAHVOL member Maureen Broadfoot who said she felt the town hall meeting sent a “strong message that a route through this area is not workable for this community.” At Saturday’s town hall meeting, Tsawwassen resident Doug Adams made a tearful public apology to his wife and four children, who joined him on the stage, for deciding to live in their current home which has powerlines crossing their backyard. The family moved to South Delta three and a half years ago from Maple Ridge and Adams said his children are constantly exposed to the EMF from the lines. With his voice breaking, Adams said they play under the lines in their backyard, walk to school under the lines, and he even kisses them good night with the fear of being under the powerlines. “I want to publicly apologize to my family for putting them through this and try to make things right and better,” Adams said, and then pleaded for the commission’s understanding and compassion when it comes to deciding on the route. Other speakers were also concerned about the damage that would result from putting the lines underground Shannon Lane resident Glen Page said he doesn’t dispute the need to provide power to Vancouver Island residents, but opting to use the existing right-of-way would cut a path of destruction through his neighbourhood. He added that the $36,000 estimate he received from a professional landscaping firm to restore his property if a cable was buried in his backyard far exceeds the $5,000 BCTC has estimated. Page’s wife Mimi, an avid gardener, added that it takes many years for a garden to mature and attain character like the one she enjoys. “And I don’t think I have enough time left to see that again.” Agnes Jackson, a 25-year Tsawwassen resident was more blunt. “One sick child is one too many,” she told he commission panel. Joedi Timmins said she and her husband moved to Tsawwassen from Campbell River because they felt it was the ideal place in the Lower Mainland to raise their two young daughters. And a home with a large backyard was perfect for that. “Ironically, that one thing has now become our gravest concern,” she said, adding “Please remember that your decision is irreversible.” Public hearings on the powerline project are set to commence Feb. 6 in downtown Vancouver. A lengthy list of interveners, including several residents, have signed up to participate in the process. In addition to BCTC’s proposal for the route, a second option from wind farm company Sea Breeze Pacific will be considered. That firm is advocating an underground cable that would bypass Tsawwassen and run from North Surrey to White Rock then by undersea cable to Vancouver Island. A decision on which route will chosen is expected sometime this spring.

© Copyright 2005 South Delta Leader



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