AS BC Hydro ratepayers contemplate a 28 per cent rate increase over five years, they might want to consider the cost of the crown corporation’s Northwest Transmission Line.
First announced in 2007, the cost was $400 million. Cancelled that fall when a major partner, the Galore Creek mine project was halted because of its own overruns, the line slumbered until officially revived in 2009. The cost then was $404 million although officials did caution that could change. And change it did, from $561 million to $617 million to $746 million as of this spring.
But wait, there’s more. To qualify for a $130 million federal grant for the transmission line, BC Hydro agreed to provide power to Iskut, north of where the line now stops.
It’s doing so by buying a power line being built by Imperial Metals that will connect the transmission line to its Red Chris mine now under construction. That cost is $52 million plus an additional $5 million to run a smaller line to Iskut off of the Imperial line, leaving open the suggestion the true price of the Northwest Transmission Line is closer to $800 million.
BC Hydro says it will, fingers crossed, recover the cost of the Northwest Transmission Line from those who use it. We can only hope that does happen for all of this serves as a cautionary tale of big money in a big project backstopped by taxpayers. Remember that when the BC Hydro rate hikes kick in.