Election not holding up power line

The federal election now underway isn’t holding up federal approval of the Northwest Transmission Line.

Although top level activities of governments usually grind to a halt because cabinet ministers are out on the campaign trail, they aren’t required to sign off on the power line.

That’s because the type of environmental review now underway in Ottawa for the $404 million project is called a screening level assessment.

And that level of assessment “does not require approval of the ministers,” said an email from Infrastructure Canada.

That agency and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have federal responsibility for the power line.

Instead of a cabinet minister, federal approval will come through a senior federal civil servant.

First Nations, local government and industry officials had been worried that the federal election might unduly delay approval from Ottawa and so delay the start of construction.

An email from Infrastructure Canada, sent in response to questions from The Terrace Standard, also said the power line assessment continues.

It did add, however, that Infrastructure Canada won’t be making any payments to the province as part of the federal commitment of $130 million toward the line’s construction, until federal environmental assessment requirements had been met.

In the case of the Northwest Transmission Line, most of the environmental assessment work came through the BC Environmental Assessment Office with the participation of federal officials as required.

And unlike a provincial requirement that a project must be approved or rejected within 45 days, there is no such time limit on the federal side.

Provincial approval came Feb. 23, increasing speculation as to when the federal government would sign off.

BC Hydro officials and others had been making preparations even before provincial approval was granted toward a spring start for work on the line.

It is to be finished in early 2014.