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REPORTING · 1st April 2015
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat City Council received a presentation from BC Hydro on Monday, March 2nd on the topic of the BC Hydro Transmission line.

“As you probably know, this are in Kitimat is supplied by a single transmission line which comes down from Skeena Substation near Terrace,” said Robert Smith. “It starts off at Skeena Substation and heads down the valley following the highway for most of the way before crossing the valley and terminates at the Minette Substation where it supplies the distribution load for this area.”

He stressed there is a second line which has been built some time ago and has reached the end of its life. It is time to replace it and the new line has to meet that load growth.

Smith told Council there were a number of decisions which needed to be made, such as how many lines they needed to put in and where they should be building them.

“The option that we’ve chosen, having been a year’s worth of studying, is to go with a single transmission line on the West side of the valley,” said Smith. “We based this decision on various things, the technical feasibility, the constructability of the line, the liability we expect in the line.”

He said they did an environmental overview of the two routes, consulted with the First Nations and Stakeholders. He stated they even went to the developers and asked if they would like redundancy through two lines. They were not interested. However, BC Hydro may put in a second line in the future.

Smith told the council that if the line was built to current standards, they would be able to meet the load for all the proposed projects in the Kitimat Valley.

They determined the west side of the valley would be better because the east side was congested with the existing line. The West side would also be shorter, and thus, cheaper. There is also less unstable terrain on the west side. They will be doing further studies in order to verify the desktop study they have already done.

“We intend to use it building H Frames which are similar to what you see now, but the difference would be that these would be made of steel. In the past few years, we’ve had some problems with some of these poles catching fire due to some deficiencies. Obviously, that would never happen with a steel pole. That makes it far better for forest fires. It is less likely to start a forest fire and should there be a forest fire near the line, it’s far more likely to survive that forest fire because it’s made of steel,” said Smith.

He added in case of lightning, they would conduct the lightning away from the line and down to the earth. The structures would be 30 metres high which would be higher than the existing structure. This allows them to have more capacity. The right away will be around 40 metres and any hazards.

Smith concluded by letting Council know what comes next. They will be doing some detailed field investigations. They want to get these done as soon as possible but they need to do a snow tracking survey which requires fresh snow. Then they will be doing wildlife and vegetation studies along the summer. They want to do some geotechnical studies as well so they can figure out where the line will go and where the structures will be. They will be meeting with the first nations and stakeholders through this process.

Once they get those permits, they hope to start construction in late 2016 with vegetation clearing. If they do not make it, it will start in 2017. It will take around two years and service will begin in 2018 or 2019, which is when they expect the load to increase in Kitimat. They do not wish to interrupt service.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff thanked them for choosing a location on the Left side of the valley rather than along the highway. He asked if they were planning public consultation if they decided to upgrade the power line. He said there could come a time when they decide to twin the highway and the location of the transmission line could play a role in what they decide to do. He also asked if there would be room for the pipeline companies to put their pipelines in place.

He was told they have had input from the various pipeline companies and they have a good idea where the pipelines are going. However, they did not include this information on their maps because it is confidential. Smith added there are safety issues around pipelines and transmission lines, however, they like different terrain.

Feldhoff asked why the H-Frame design was chosen for the towers. He was told it would be the most suitable tower to carry the capacity and the conductors.

Councillor Larry Walker asked if the existing line would be reforested and if there was going to be a road system which would parallel the new line. The response from Smith was the existing line would be taken down once the new line was in service. It would probably be there for about 6 months to a year before it gets taken down. They would let nature reclaim it. There will be access roads for construction and future maintenance. They need to decide if the roads will be there for public access and will put barriers in place if it becomes an issue.

Feldhoff asked for a report on steps BC Hydro would take to reduce the amount of time the power is off in the case of another major snowfall. There was no answer as the person who could answer the question could not cross the picket lines which were outside the Council Meeting that night.