BC Hydro has set either next year or 2017 as the start date of construction for a new transmission line between Terrace and Kitimat.
The 287kv line will replace an older 287kv now considered at the end of its operational life.
“The line we are going to be putting in will be able to carry much higher capacity than the existing one even though it is the same voltage, because it will have bigger conductors on it,” said BC Hydro official Robert Smith who was in the area recently to provide updated information on the project estimated to cost $115 million.
“We are going to have fewer structures and so greater spans,” said Smith of the new 287 kv line.
“The old line was made with wooden poles which had the unfortunate tendency to catch fire,” said Smith, adding that the steel poles on the new line will be more durable.
A preliminary map of the right-of-way for the new line shows it running along the west side of the Kitimat Valley for 50 kilometres, which is 10 kilometres shorter than the current line on the east side of the valley.
Built in the 1970s, the current line will be decommissioned once the new one goes into service.
Based on the start of construction, BC Hydro wants the new one up and running in either 2018 or 2019.
BC Hydro at one time had been contemplating the construction of two 287kv lines between Terrace and Kitimat but shelved that project when proponents of planned liquefied natural gas plants at Kitimat said they’d be generating the large majority of the power they need by themselves.
One project at Kitimat, LNG Canada, which is majority-owned by Shell, did say it would need more power from BC Hydro and it is that request which accelerate planning for the replacement line, said Smith.
And should more demand surface for more LNG-related power, Smith said BC Hydro would contemplate a second line.
With BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line now complete, contractors can now anticipate more work from the provincial crown corporation.
Smith said environmental, geo-engineering and archaeological work will begin this year, leading toward the construction start dates of either 2016 or 2017.
He said there will be no reclamation work on the old right-of-way.
“Usually we just let nature takes its course. It can be quite expensive to replant on a right-of-way.”
BC Hydro’s cost calculations have placed an upper ceiling of $165 million on the hydro project with a lower possible cost of $100 million.
Smith said talks with First Nations who have territory along the line route are ongoing.