BC Hydro seeks regulatory approval for South Peace transmission line

The public utility announced today it has applied for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the independent regulator of energy services, that will examine the need and justification for the project, its cost, socio-economic and environmental factors, and what alternatives to the project might exist.

The Dawson Creek/Chetwynd Area Transmission Project is a proposed 230-kilovolt double-circuit transmission line, spanning about 60 kilometers between the planned Sundance Substation, to be located 19 kilometres east of Chetwynd near Highway 97, and Bear Mountain Terminal. A second 230-kilovolt double-circuit line, about 12 kilometers long, will connect Bear Mountain Terminal to Dawson Creek Substation. Bear Mountain Terminal will then be expanded into a full substation.

The project is estimated to cost about $250 million and create up to 110 jobs per year during the construction stage. BC Hydro states that electricity demand in the South Peace region is growing at 10 times the rate as the utility's system as a whole is growing, largely driven by natural gas development and related activities.

The route for the proposed transmission line was chosen after extensive consultation with stakeholders, and generally follows either the route of an existing transmission line or exiting roads or railroads where possible to minimize new disturbance, said Bruce Barrett, vice president responsible for BC Hydro's major transmission and distribution projects.

"We've been communicating with stakeholders in the South Peace for over a year, including elected officials for the communities in the area, and property owners who could be affected by the construction of the project," he said. "We have communicated with the owners of over 100 private parcels.

He said the preferred route for the line will affect more than 75 property owners, primarily with agricultural properties. He said the majority of houses are well over 100 metres from the proposed location of the line, and in cases where there are homes close to the existing line, they've made efforts to deviate from the existing right-of-way to avoid those homes.

He said a major mitigation effort is the design of the tower structures that will support the line, which will employ a single, steel pole structure rather than multiple poles or structural foundations. They will also select locations for those poles that minimize the impact to the land base, such as on on fence

lines or near roads, he said. He added they will not be using guide wires so won't be any wires or anchors extending out from the structures that will interfere with agriculture or other uses.

"We've tried to keep the corridor as narrow as we can and reduce the number of structures, and in that way limit the effect on the land base," said Barrett, adding there will be between 200-250 poles along the length of the project.

The project does not require a provincial environmental assessment, and at this time appears not to trigger a federal assessment either. However, BC Hydro did hire a consulting firm to carry out environmental and archeological studies starting last year.

"We will be preparing a detailed environmental management plan for the project prior to the start of construction," said Barrett.

If the BCUC grants the application, it is expected construction of the project would begin early next year and the line would be in service by October of 2013.

More information on the project can be found online at http://transmission.bchydro.com/projects/dcc/. For more information on the BCUC, its regulatory review process and how to participate, go online to www.bcuc.com. Detailed maps of the proposed transmission line route, divided into three main sections, have been included with this article.