Bennett Bridge off list of ways to get second power line to West Kelowna - InfoNews

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Bennett Bridge off list of ways to get second power line to West Kelowna

B.C. Hydro senior project manager Sue Foster poses for a photo. Foster outlined power line options for West Kelowna council, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.
November 28, 2018 - 11:50 AM

KELOWNA - Plans to build a second B.C. Hydro power line to West Kelowna no longer include running it across or under Okanagan Lake.

That was one of three alternatives explored by the Crown corporation, B.C. Hydro's senior project manager Sue Foster told West Kelowna city council yesterday, Nov. 27.

“MOTI (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) does not support installing a transmission line on or near their bridge, or allowing new transmission lines in Highway 97 rights of way,” Foster said, going on to explain that the City of Kelowna would require lines to be buried in the ground and that repairs on underwater or underground lines are slower to make than on above ground lines.

Foster gave council an update on the progress of plans to build a second transmission line to the city that have dragged on since 2015. The line won’t be complete until at least 2025, well past the initial target date of 2022.

The sole purpose of providing a second power line to West Kelowna is as a backup in case the existing line through “rough terrain” is damaged by a forest fire. Three alternatives have been under study for the last two years with a decision to be made on the preferred choice in February, Foster said.

A second option would be to connect to Vernon but that power line would run through steep terrain that would require a lot of dangerous helicopter work. It would also be the longest and most costly option.

The third option is a route to Merritt that doesn’t have the same mountain challenges, has a lower forest fire risk and would be through a lot of Crown land. But there is still a lot of work to be done as it has three options about halfway along its route on how to best reach the Nicola Substation near Merritt. There also needs to be archaeological, fisheries and wildlife studies.

“I need two years to gather that data,” Foster told council. “The season to gather that data is very short, from May to October."

West Kelowna council jumped on the Merritt route as the preferred option and passed a motion to write a letter of support to the B.C. Hydro board and urge them to move at all possible speed.

Coun. Doug Findlater noted the last time there was a major power outage was during a wildfire near Peachland, which is also served by the same power line. He said the outage lasted 15 hours and there were severe problems with traffic lights and water supply.

“From an emergency management perspective, if we don’t have electricity, we don’t have water,” West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund told council.

There are 22,000 residents in West Kelowna and Peachland served by a single, 80 kilometre long, 138 kilovolt transmission line on wooden poles, that according to the B.C. Hydro website, is through “rugged, remote terrain susceptible to forest fires and landslides.”

There is no guarantee that West Kelowna would be immune from a wildfire that took out both lines at the same time since they converge on the Westbank Substation.

“The possibility of a fire that impacts both lines, at some point in time, cannot be completely discounted,” Brolund said. “The place where they come together most closely is in the community, which is our responsibility.”

Foster said she plans to make an application to the B.C. Utilities Commission in early 2021 for the power line. She had no estimate of the cost of construction.


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