City councillors in West Kelowna voiced their frustration to BC Hydro officials on Tuesday night after it was revealed a proposed plan to build a secondary transmission line to West Kelowna continues to change.
At the meeting, BC Hydro stakeholder relations manager Rachelle Trent informed council that a decision to twin an existing transmission line between Merritt and West Kelowna was no longer the most feasible option.
Instead, she said the provincial agency recently completed a new six-month feasibility study to look at ways it could upgrade the existing line instead of building a new one from Merritt.
“The West Kelowna transmission project is in BC Hydro’s current capital plan and continues to move forward. Both new transmission line alternatives (building a second transmission line) and a resiliency alternative (increasing the resilience of the current line) are on the table,” wrote Dag Sharman, community relations manager for BC Hydro.
He said BC Hydro is also looking at whether it is feasible to build a secondary transmission line into West Kelowna from other areas, including a new transmission line on the west side of Okanagan Lake, connecting Westbank to Vernon, a transmission line connecting Westbank to Nicola and/or a new transmission line across Okanagan Lake, connecting Westbank to the FortisBC system.
“BC Hydro understands that redundancy is a priority for the communities and we want to confirm that building a new, second transmission line is being considered,” wrote Sharman.
“Since the leading alternative was identified in 2016, the cost estimate to build the new transmission line has increased. It’s prudent that we review the cost estimate and relook at all alternatives available to us to ensure we make the decision that will ensure we continue to deliver clean, reliable electricity to the West Kelowna and Peachland areas while keeping rates low for our customers.”
West Kelowna city councillor Stephen Johnston said the delays have been frustrating.
“This project has been a conversation with the Central Okanagan Regional District since 2007,” said Johnston.
“To get through this whole process since 2015, and then throw it all back on the table and say ‘Yeah, we’re actually going to look at this whole resiliency thing’ four years after the project was initiated, one can’t help but think were just being monkeyed around.”
As part of the possible improvements, Trent said culverts would be built around existing transmission poles in grasslands along the line to help prevent them from catching on fire in dry conditions.
Improving access roads around the line in the event of an emergency and improving the line’s drainage from ice and wind were other proposed improvements.
After the announcement, councillor Doug Findlater said improving access roads around the line would’t fix the problem in the event of an emergency.
“Many of our equipment failures have been due to wildfire. These incidents have been very local and high in the mountains.”
“During these instances, BC Hydro officials have driven on little access roads in the middle of the night trying to find these failures.
“They couldn’t find them.”
Councilor Jason Friesen said more effort needed to be made by hydro officials to solve the problem.
“We have one line and we have safety issues,” said Friesen.
“I don’t want to hear that you have our best interests on this project, because you don’t.
“We have patients that are on oxygen tanks that last for two hours. We have elderly people that are lying in beds that can’t afford to get cold or that can’t afford to get pneumonia or they’ll die.”
Sharman said the Crown corporation will make a final decision on how to advance the energy project next year.