A second electricity power line will not be coming to West Kelowna any time soon.
And West Kelowna city council appears to be getting concerned about the delay.
At its meeting earlier this week, council voted to write to the B.C. Hydro board urging it to build the multi-million dollar transmission line as soon as possible, after hearing the project has been pushed back to 2025. It was originally planned for completion by 2022.
Coun. Rick de Jong, who suggested the letter be written to the B.C. Hydro board, said it’s time for the Crown corporation to move ahead with the project, expressing frustration at the delay.
His council colleagues agreed, noting the second transmission line project appeared to have much more urgency when former Kelowna-West B.C. Liberal MLA and premier Christy Clark initiated it in 2015 and said it would take six years to build.
At that time, Clark pressed B.C. Hydro to start work on the project following concerns by the city that its power supply was in jeopardy because there is only one transmission line feeding the community. The same single line currently also feeds the Westbank First Nation, Peachland, parts of the Regional District of Central Okanagan and as far south as Summerland.
In 2014, a forest fire east of West Kelowna threatened the line.
With Clark now out of politics and the NDP in government, the project —in some people’s minds—appears to have stalled.
But B.C. Hydro officials say that is not the case.
Despite that assertion, in presentations to West Kelowna council in recent years, Hydro officials have repeatedly said work is continuing on finalizing the route, with consultations with stakeholders including First Nations, environmental and socio-economic impact assessments and investigations into safety and cost.
A route between the Nicola substation and Westbank is the preferred one but a specific corridor has yet to be identified.
In her presentation to council this week, B.C. Hydro representative Sue Foster said the latest delay was caused by more time required for regulatory permits, approvals and authorizations, as well as completion of field studies and construction.
Her presentation also noted, as a footnote, that construction will not start until the project is approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission and a final investment decision is supported by the B.C. Hydro board.
So council voted to send the letter pressing the board for approval and to start construction sooner rather than later.
Foster said B.C. Hydro expects to make a final decision about the route early next year and then a “definition phase” would take place, involving more consultation with First Nations and other stakeholders, conducting a centre-line survey for the route, geotechnical investigations, environmental and forestry field studies and engineering field work.
The current stage of work has included consultation, desktop work looking at environmental, socio-economic, archaeological and traditional use and engineering studies. Geotechnical investigations have also been conducted, as well as a wildfire risk assessment. The type of transmission line to be used has also been looked at, as well as the size of conductors to be used on the line.
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