Municipality challenges BCTC authority
Utility told to provide proof of its right to access civic properties without consulting local government
DELTA - The corporation of Delta is challenging the BC Transmission Corp.'s authority to carry out a planned upgrade of a high voltage power line through Tsawwassen.
BCTC is accessing civic properties that are outside its power line's right-of-way, and Delta is demanding proof that it can go onto those properties without consulting the local government, Delta municipal solicitor Greg Vanstone said Monday in a telephone interview.
Vanstone said Delta is also concerned that BCTC is refusing to provide a work schedule for the project to enable area residents to plan their way around traffic and property disruptions that will occur during construction.
BCTC spokeswoman Thoren Hudyma responded that Delta had never previously indicated a concern about access for construction of the line.
Tsawwassen is one of the final incomplete sections of a $280-million, 67-kilometre power line upgrade between the B.C. mainland and Vancouver Island.
Thousands of Delta residents have voiced opposition to the project, which will put new overhead high-voltage lines along an existing 3.7-kilometre transmission right-of-way that runs through backyards of 137 Tsawwassen homes.
Work crews began arriving in the community last week to commence work on the publicly owned sections of the route, with several residents threatened with injunctions after refusing access to their property.
"We have not issued any permits, approvals, licences, any formal authorization for them to do what they're doing," Vanstone said.
"In addition to going onto private property they are going onto some municipal property, some dedicated roads and lanes and this sort of thing. Those are properties that do not have a right-of-way dedicated against them.
"So, because we haven't given them any approval and because they don't have a right-of-way, we've asked them what their authority is to enter the right-of- way for this purpose. They've not yet told me what their authority is."
In addition, Vanstone said Delta also believes BCTC should respect the municipality's customary practice of announcing in advance any civic works likely to cause a local disturbance to traffic or the community in general.
"We'd like to be able to tell the residents, you can be expecting this to happen on 12th Avenue on these days, and this to be happening on this street on these days, so you can decide whether you go get your milk today at this store, or whether you go somewhere else, those sorts of things," Vanstone said.
He said Delta expects BCTC to post signs on affected streets, or publish or mail public notices to inform residents how their movement around the community, or the enjoyment of their backyards, will be affected on a day-to-day basis during construction of the new lines.
"When we have a road project or a waterworks project, if we are going to block a road, we put up signs. We say this road is going to be affected for these days. We'd like to be able to tell our citizens that sort of information, [but] we don't have it." He said Delta has no plans "at this time" to take the issue to court.
Hudyma said BCTC "has the legal right to construct this line. The right-of-way agreements include the provision allowing us to pass and repass over the land for the purposes of ingress and egress to and from the right-of-way."
She noted that Delta opposed the project at hearings before the B.C. Utilities Commission, but said "at no time did they ever indicate that they took the position that BCTC did not have the right to use municipal streets or other infrastructure in constructing the BCTC has been in "ongoing contact" with Delta, and with residents, about construction in and around the lines
"As for receiving copies of individual property owner construction management plans, these are confidential documents and we are speaking about these to individual property owners," Hudyma said.
A tentative date has been set for Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court to hear BCTC's application for an injunction against four Tsawwassen residents who have refused work crews access to their properties.
"We expect some kind of answer by the end of the week, very shortly after the hearing," Hudyma said. "We know that we do have the legal right as per the right-of-way agreements that have been in place since the '50s. So the idea of going to the courts is to have those rights reaffirmed," Hudyma said.
"We know we have them, but if people are more comfortable hearing that kind of reaffirmation from the courts then that's fine too."