Northwestern B.C. power line river crossing changed

Old growth forest and fishing values recognized in area south of Terrace, B.C.

BC Hydro has made adjustments to the routing of its planned new 287kV power line that will extend from the Skeena Substation in Terrace to Kitimat in order to avoid an area of old growth trees bordering the Lakelse River. The change was in response to concerns raised by a local land management committee.

The Kalum Land and Resource Management Plan committee was informed by BC Hydro of the progress of the project planning and asked for its opinion at an Oct. 21 meeting.

The committee is made up of representatives of industries and fishing and recreation groups.

The main route for the line, to replace one that’s past its viable service date, was already established, however, after the environmental work done this summer, BC Hydro made a slight revision where the line will cross the Lakelse River.

“The initial provisional line routing/design required clearing within these sensitive areas,” the group was told during the presentation by project manager Robert Smith.

The sensitive area of old growth forest and the fishing-rich area of the protected Lakelse River was a sticking point with the resource management committee group and BC Hydro came through with a shift in routing to avoid the old growth trees which “utilizes two taller structures (60m lattice steel) and the natural topography to span over the river.”

“That’s the beating heart of salmon conservation. There was a lot of concern of breaching of that zone,” said Rob Hart, who chairs the Kalum committee.

He said the committee was happy with the crossing shift.

The total span over the river is just under 500 metres and the additional costs to the project are less than one per cent.

The old line, which currently follows Hwy37 South, will be decommissioned and the right-of-way left to grow back.

Hart said that further questions to be answered include the possible future use of the abandoned right-of-way by liquefied natural gas companies for natural gas pipelines.

He said that a report on the trees that are removed and the areas traversed in the new line should be made available for future planning.

The project cost for the new 287 kilovolt line which will feature steel poles is $115 million and this past summer was spent doing the environmental work with engineering and construction work anticipated for 2016 or 2017.

Hart says that most land use management groups were dissolved more than a decade ago, but those in the Northwest, including the Smithers area, continue to this day and provide an important voice for local interests in major projects.

He said that in the past it was mainly forestry and mining projects that the group involved itself with but that the building of the Northwest Transmission Line and proposed natural gas and oil pipelines caused the group to involve itself with companies wanting to build rights-of-way through forested land.