West Kelowna council wants to talk routing with B.C. Hydro

The "leading alternative" route picked by Hydro is not the city's favourite.

West Kelowna’s council says it does not want to slow down the process of getting a second power transmission line into the community by opposing the route B.C. Hydro has chosen for it. But it does want to talk to Hydro officials about it.

Earlier this week, B.C. Hydro announced it has zeroed in on what it called the “leading alternative” as the route for a second transmission line to West Kelowna.

While the council was not asked to approve any of the three options that Hydro was considering, it had made it clear in the past the route from the Nicola substation over the mountains to West Kelowna was its least favourite.

”I think we felt strongly the (under Okanagan Lake) option was the best route,” said Coun. Bryden Winsby.

“(B.C. Hydro) is taking the cheap route and I don’t think that it’s necessarily the best route.”

In a letter to council earlier this week, Sabrina Locicero, of B.C. Hydro’s community engagement team dealing with the West Kelowna transmission project, said after 18 months studying three possible routes, the one chosen for more study would see the line run from the Nicola substation in Merritt to Westbank, the same route as the existing transmission line.

Earlier this year, when reviewing with the three routes under consideration, West Kelowna council voiced its concern about that route because it was in the same general area as the existing line.

The threat of damage from a major forest fire was cited as the biggest concern.

But Locicero said with steel poles, the line would have the second lowest risk of damage from a wildfire. She said there is no record of a wildfire in B.C. being more than 20 kilometres wide and Hydro would build the new line in an area 50 kilometres wide.

The route was also chosen, according to Locicero, because it is more favourable from a overall safety, environmental, socio-economic and cost perspective compared with the Vernon substation alternative.

It also poses a low geotechnical risk, which can be reduced by routing and design and it’s unlikely an event such as a landslide would affect both lines at the same time, she said.

The two other routes under consideration included the one that would have taken the line under Okanagan Lake after linking to the FortisB.C. power system that serves Kelowna, and one that would have seen the line run along the west side of Okanagan Lake from the Vernon substation.

Council has invited Locicero to come to a future council meeting to discuss Hydro’s decision.