Northwestern BC Hydro transmission line to be refurbished

Replacing poles between Kitimat and Terrace far cheaper than complete new line

BC Hydro is going to save at least $100 million by refurbishing its 287 kilovolt power line between Kitimat and Terrace instead of replacing it altogether.

Figures released by the provincial crown corporation indicate replacing poles and other items will cost between $4.5 to $5.7 million, far less than initial estimates of between $100 million and $170 million to construct a new line on a new route.

BC Hydro had been contemplating building a new line since 2014, saying the current line had reached the end of its life, and then spent $15 million on engineering and design choosing a new route west of the current line.

It had even begun constructing a road network and other works in preparation for construction of a new line until putting the project on ice late last year in favour of examining whether fixing up the current line would suffice.

“We have now confirmed that refurbishing the existing 287-kilovolt transmission line will safely meet current and future electricity demand at a lower cost than building a new line,” said BC Hydro official Kevin Aquino.

“In the event that future electricity demand in the area increases beyond the projected levels, a new line may still be required.”

Aquino said the hope is the work, to be completed by BC Hydro crews and scheduled to be finished by 2020, won’t result in any service interruptions.

The line runs between BC Hydro’s Skeena Substation just south of Terrace to the Minette Bay substation near Kitimat. A line then runs from Minette Bay to the Rio Tinto aluminum smelter, which will also be refurbished.

In all, BC Hydro crews will replace approximately 40 of the line’s 180 wooden poles, approximately 80 timber cross and cross braces, insulators and other hardware, and improve the road network along the right of way as well as clearing vegetation.

At the time work halted on the new line project, BC Hydro officials said the effort could still be useful if, at some time, electrical demand increased in the area.

A new transmission line would have run down the west side of the Kitimat Valley. At 48km long it would have been shorter than the existing 59km line which runs down the east side of the valley.

Planning for the new route included signing economic benefits agreements with the Kitselas, the Haisla and other First Nations with interests along the right of way.

First Nations companies had also worked on clearing and improving road access along the intended new route and heli-pads were also constructed.

When preparation work along the now-abandoned new route stopped, BC Hydro officials said First Nations would also be involved in a refurbishing project.

 

Some of the poles along Highway 37S between Kitimat and Terrace will be replaced. Photo Gerry Leibel

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