BC Hydro spends $62 million on homes near high-voltage power lines
By Jonathan Fowlie
METRO VANCOUVER — BC Hydro will pay $62 million to purchase about 100 homes near a controversial Tsawwassen power line, a document filed by the Crown corporation reveals.
Hydro plans to resell the houses over at least two years and perhaps longer, the document said.
Hydro estimated that by the time the homes are all sold, its net cost for the buyout program will be $23 million.
“It’s almost like a capital program in that we acquire $62 million of homes based on estimated property acquisition costs,” B.C. Hydro spokeswoman Susan Danard said.
“That is offset over time by our sales,” she added.
Guy Gentner, the New Democratic Party’s MLA-elect for Delta North, was extremely critical, saying it would have cost about the same amount to bury the lines underground.
“They’ve bungled this from the get-go,” Gentner said.
In an e-mail Tuesday, BC Transmission Corp. spokeswoman Janet Stewart said it would have cost an estimated $24 million to bury the new lines. If BC Transmission had gone that route, she said, the old overhead lines would have remained in place until 2018.
“The BCUC [BC Utilities Commission] rejected this option, citing lack of community support,” Stewart said in the e-mail.
Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom could not be reached for comment.
Under direction from the provincial government, B.C. Hydro had been negotiating since January to purchase 104 homes from upset owners living directly adjacent to a new 3.7 kilometer high-voltage line.
The power project has sparked significant community outrage against the B.C. Liberal government, some of which factored into the recent election race in Delta South, where independent Vicki Huntington defeated Liberal Attorney-General Wally Oppal.
Consisting of 20 tall steel poles, the new power line replaced an older one with shorter wooden poles.
The new lines — which supply power to more than 700,000 customers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands — transmit 230 kilovolts of power. The original lines transmitted 138 kilovolts.
Government approval for the project came after more than three years of public consultation, though many residents remained opposed to the project because of feared health effects of a high-voltage line, and because of the appearance of the project.
While homeowners began receiving offers for their homes earlier this year, it has not been known until now how much the entire program would cost.
Last Thursday, the utilities commission approved an application from Hydro that said it would spend $62 million to buy 104 homes — an average of $597,000 per house.
The filing said Hydro will spend an additional $20 million on financing and administrative costs, and to make energy efficiency improvements at some of the properties.
It said Hydro expects to resell the 104 properties for $59 million, meaning that after all is said and done, the exercise will have cost the Crown corporation $23 million.
Danard said Hydro is buying and selling the houses through another arm of the provincial government, and that the houses will not all be put up for sale at the same time to avoid flooding the market.
Danard added that while Hydro estimates it will take a $3-million loss on the actual sale of the houses — in addition to the $20 million for financing, administration, maintenance and other costs — she does not think there will be a problem selling the properties.
“We’re quite confident the homes will resell,” she said. “They’re nice homes.”
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver SunPosted by Arthur Caldicott on 27 May 2009