The coalition that lobbied for the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line isn’t calling it quits just yet.
Although the environmental assessment for the power line is now finished and waiting for the approval of two provincial cabinet ministers, coalition chair Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski says the matter of providing reliable and affordable electrical power up north will continue.
Topping the list is extending power past Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North, where the transmission line is now scheduled to stop, and increasing the line’s capacity, he said.
“But first we want to see this project approved,” said Pernarowski last week of the transmission line. “This is not really the time to push for that discussion with BC Hydro.”
Pernarowski also noted that the federal government also needs to provide environmental approval.
While provincial mines minister Pat Bell and environment minister Murray Coell were given the environmental assessment Jan. 13 and have 45 days to respond, the federal government has no time limit in which it must act.
Coalition members might even make a trip to Ottawa to state their case after Bell and Coell make their decision, Pernarowski said.
“But we would only do that if we see there is some delay with the federal government,” he said.
Overall the coalition, which is made up of aboriginal, regional and local governments and mining and mining-related companies, is confident the line will be approved.
The coalition met Jan. 25 in Vancouver during the annual Roundup mining conference which draws thousands of people each year.
“There was certainly a good feeling,” said Pernarowski.
He said timely approval of the line is crucial so as to fit into BC Hydro’s plans for a spring 2011 start leading to a construction finish in late 2013.
Pernarowski noted that the finish date is vital to Imperial Metals because late 2013 is the target date to start mining its Red Chris copper property using power delivered via the transmission line.
The Northwest Transmission Line is to run 340km north of BC Hydro’s Skeena Substation, which is near Terrace, and stop at Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North.
“A lot of the mining projects and run-of-river projects are north of where the line would end,” said Pernarowski.
The Red Chris property, for example, is north and Imperial Metals would have to build its own line south to connect with the transmission line at Bob Quinn.
Also located north of the end of the transmission line are villages such as Iskut and Dease Lake which are powered by diesel generators.
There is, however, a small hydro project that does supply power to Dease Lake.
A well-organized American lobby group is also at work trying to convince American governments of the viability of developing hydro-electric potential in southeast Alaska and then exporting the power through the Northwest Transmission Line into the North American grid.