Power line opposition heating up
Andrew A. Duffy
Upgrade urged for Island's electrical grid
Residents of Saltspring Island, Tsawwassen and Delta want to zap plans to upgrade the power lines that keep lights glowing on Vancouver Island.
They cite health and environmental concerns, saying high-voltage lines have been linked to health problems and are just plain ugly.
A lobby group on Saltspring wants a re-routing that would boost costs by tens of millions of dollars. Tsawwassen and Delta residents want route changes. B.C. Transmission Corp., responsible for the power lines, is in talks with residents and assessing alternatives.
On Tuesday, the corporation unveiled plans to put lines underground at Tsawwassen. It originally wanted to run lines on new towers over homes but scrapped the plan after a public outcry. "We listened carefully to the views expressed in Tsawwassen and with community input we were able to identify a route alternative that fully meets safety and environmental protection standards," said Dennis Maniago, a B.C. Transmission vice-president.
But at a meeting Tuesday night, residents were still unhappy. "We don't feel that the community's concerns have been met. We have huge concerns about the health effects of placing these high-transmission lines underground," said resident Maureen Broadfoot.
B.C. Transmission has estimated its upgrading project will cost more than $200 million. The upgrade is needed, it says, because of growing demand for electricity on Vancouver Island; as well, some existing lines are near the point where they're no longer reliable.
In the Gulf Islands, B.C. Transmission wants to install new overhead lines on Saltspring and Galiano islands to carry power to Vancouver Island using a 60-year-old right-of-way.
"We are asking them to consider alternative options, alternative technology and alternative routes," said Daria Zobi, a member of Island Residents Against High Voltage Overhead Lines.
Zobi's group says running cables overhead on the existing right-of-way is potentially harmful considering the electromagnetic field given off by the increased capacity in the lines, and does not take into account environmental damage in the Gulf Islands.
"Their proposal is dinosaur technology," said Enid Turner, president of the residents' group, whose property backs onto the right-of-way. "We want them to look at new technology ... if this system is going to be around for 40 or 50 years, why not do it right?"
Both Turner and Zobi suggest an undersea model that would go around Saltspring before reaching the Vancouver Island entry point near Maple Bay. "BCTC is not willing to look at it seriously," said Turner.
The utility disagrees. B.C. Transmission has been crunching the numbers on three alternatives, an overhead route, underwater and underground, said Donna McGeachie, the corporation's community affairs manager. Estimates will be ready for a meeting with Saltspring residents on Saturday.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005Posted by Arthur Caldicott on 01 Jun 2005