Hope fading for Tsawwassen power line opponents

Hope appears to be fading for power line opponents in Tsawwassen.

Findings from an independent study commissioned by the provincial government and released Wednesday found the cost of placing a set of upgraded lines underground closely matches an estimate from the B.C. Transmission Corporation that deemed it too costly. And that has left residents who live near the lines downcast.

“It doesn’t look good,” said Jack Bulloch, a member of Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL). “I haven’t really had a chance to see the numbers closely yet, but there still seems to be a great disparity between our numbers and theirs.

“We were kind of pinning our hopes on this,” he added.

TRAHVOL’s estimate to bury the lines – compiled by Mill Creek Management Technology – came in at just over $16 million and a time line of eight months to complete.

The independent study put the cost of horizontal directional drilling as high as $37 million and an estimated 22 to 27 months to finish.

The study also warned the bill could be significantly higher since indirect costs – such as equipment availability and interest during construction – were not included.

The independent study was requested by B.C. energy minister Richard Neufeld after TRAHVOL had questioned why its estimate was far less and mounted a letter writing campaign to the premier pushing for the lines – which will transmit power to Vancouver Island residents via an undersea cable from the Tsawwassen Beach area – to be buried.

Residents fear the potential health risks from the overhead lines that run along a 50-year-old BC Hydro right-of-way, and have been fighting the project since it became public three years ago.

The B.C. Transmission Corporation, which is responsible for power line infrastructure, had planned to begin construction of the Tsawwassen portion of the project this month. The inclusion of an independent study delayed that until June.

According to the ministry of energy, the information in the studies will now be reviewed before making a decision on how to proceed.

No specific date was set, but the release states, “A decision on the next steps is expected shortly.”

And that has residents like Bulloch concerned that TRAHVOL’s protests – which have stretched as far the Supreme Court of Canada – may have finally come up against a dead end.

“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “There are alternatives to this route through Tsawwassen, but they seem to be trying to set a precedent. And sadly, I think what they are doing will destroy this community.”

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