13
Jul
2006

BCUC approves power line upgrade Gulf Islands

Driftwood, Wednesday, July 12, 2006

By sean mcintyre

Residents opposed to the construction of high voltage power lines across Salt Spring remain shocked following the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) decision to approve the lines linking the mainland with Vancouver Island.

“It is truly disturbing and frustrating to see how the legal process can twist things around,” said Jackie Truscott, an Island Residents Against High Voltage Overhead Power lines (IRAHVOL) member. “The government obviously has a different program for the people of British Columbia.”

Islanders spent more than a year and a half trying to rally support against the British Columbia Transmission Corporation’s (BCTC) plan to replace the existing power lines that run along the island between Maracaibo and Sansum Narrows with a series of higher powered 230kV double-circuit cables.

IRAHVOL members argued that the BCTC plan raises potential health concerns associated with electromagnetic fields (EMF) and have a negative impact on property values in the area.

“People can now expect to have these lines here for another 50 years,” said Truscott. “This is really a missed opportunity for the province to show that it is open to more progressive alternatives.”

The fight to stop BCTC, Truscott added, proved a lengthy, costly and emotionally charged experience. Despite the disappointment, she and other IRAHVOL members will now await a response from the community before deciding what to do next.

“If anything we have learned a lot from this process,’ she said. “Unfortunately we cannot do anything without more community support. Either people get behind us or they don’t.”

Though final approval is contingent on a decision from the Environmental Assessment Office, opponents on the mainland are considering whether to appeal the decision. In the meantime, an e-mail circulated by power line opponents in Tsawwassen earlier this week asked property owners along the right-of-way to deny B.C. Hydro employees access to the power lines.

Construction on the Salt Spring portion of the upgrade is set to begin in early-2007. Project opponents spanning the route’s length from South Delta to North Cowichan asked BCUC to recommend BCTC, an independent Crown Corporation responsible for operation, maintaining and planning the growth of BC’s high-voltage electric transmission system use underground HVDC Light technology.

According to Donna McGeachie, BCTC’s manager of community relations, the newer technology would have added an additional $149 million to the $240 million project, has yet to produce any long term maintenance statistics and cannot be easily incorporated into the company’s existing network.

McGeachie added a BCUC-imposed condition on the project requires BCTC representatives provide reports outlining the latest EMF research conducted by agencies including the World Health Organization and Health Canada. “Certainly our position has always been that the proposed level of EMFs are well within the guidelines,” she said. “If the guidelines were to change over time, we would certainly take all the necessary precautions.”

As for worries over property values, the commission decided that, since property owners purchased their lands after the right-of-way was established more than 50 years ago, “the benefits of large lots and/or low prices were weighed against the presence of transmission lines.”

For more information on the project contact
//www.irahvol.org or
//www.bctransco.com.

//www.gulfislands.net/news.asp?ID=1622
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