BC HYDRO has pushed back the completion date for its Northwest Transmission Line.
Instead of a completion date at the end of 2013, the 287kV power line, which will run up Hwy37 North, won’t be operational until sometime in the spring of 2014.
Speaking last week, Tim Jennings, the BC Hydro official in charge of the project, said a number of factors added up to the overall delay.
Those included an environmental review that lasted longer than expected and challenges in arranging for the start of construction with Valard/Valard and Burns & McDonnell, the crown corporation’s primary design-build contracting group.
Jennings conceded that BC Hydro may have been over optimistic when it first set out its construction and completion timetable.
“We’ve had delays, if you will, and there’s been more time spent than we had originally planned to get [environmental] approvals and other factors,” he said.
“We had really hoped to get construction started this season. But we are as committed as ever,” Jennings continued.
Negotiating impact benefits agreements with First Nations who have traditional territory along the pipeline route and with the Nisga’a Nation did not cause delays, Jennings added.
Those agreements, which provide money and job and business opportunities for First Nations, were not considered a mandatory part of the overall project.
“[Impact benefits agreements] are not tied to the schedule,” said Jennings.
Jennings did not anticipate the delay will affect the overall construction cost for the line.
BC Hydro has been unable to provide a set price, saying the project will cost between $365 million and $525 million, a range it first set out several years ago.
“We’re still within that range,” said Jennings.
But he did say that project costs have been increasing toward the upper end of the estimated range.
Jennings anticipates a start to construction by the end of December, work he defined as falling trees and clearing land leading to building roads to the actual power line route.
To date, the physical work has been marking out the route’s centre line and conducting drilling and other geotechnical work in preparation for the start of construction.
The delay will not affect work on the Forrest Kerr run-of-river hydro project belonging to AltaGas.
That project, which involves diverting water from the Iskut River and running it through turbines before returning it to the river, isn’t scheduled to be finished until July 2014 in any event.
“AltaGas has been advised of the shift in the in-service date and is working collaboratively with BC Hydro to help facilitate, and where possible, improve the [Northwest Transmission Line] schedule by sharing resources if there is an opportunity to do so,” states a Dec. 2 email from AltaGas.
The project cost of approximately $700 million won’t be affected either.
AltaGas has a 60-year contract to sell electricity to BC Hydro by transmitting it through the Northwest Transmission Line.
It is also paying BC Hydro $180 million toward the construction of the transmission line.
AltaGas also says the delay won’t affect the timing of two smaller run-of-river projects it wants to build in the region.
McLymont Creek and Volcano Creek aren’t expected to be finished until November 2015.