A proposal to build a second transmission line from Merritt to West Kelowna has been cancelled, according to BC Hydro officials.
A spokesperson for the provincial agency broke the news during a West Kelowna council meeting on Tuesday night, much to the dismay and frustration of city councillors.
“We have one line and we have safety issues,” said Councilor Jason Friesen. “I don’t want to hear that you have our best interests on this project, because you don’t.”
“We have patients that are on oxygen tanks that last for two hours. We have elderly people that are lying in beds that can’t afford to get cold or that can’t afford to get pneumonia or they’ll die. We have to have 100 per cent on this project.”
Instead of twinning the 80-kilometre transmission line between the two communities, Rachelle Trent, a stakeholder relations manager for BC Hydro, told council hydro officials recently completed a new feasibility study to look at ways to upgrade the current power line to help make it more resilient to natural disasters.
As part of the improvements, Trent said culverts would be built around existing transmission poles in grasslands along the line to help prevent them from catching on fire if there’s a forest fire. She said Bc Hydro officials would also improve access roads around the line and improve the line’s drainage from ice and wind.
After the announcement, councillor Doug Findlater said improving access roads would’t fix the problem in the event of an emergency.
“Many of our equipment failures have been due to wildfire. These incidents have been very local and high in the mountains.”
“During these instances, BC Hydro officials have driven on little access roads in the middle of the night trying to find these failures. They couldn’t find them.”
West Kelowna city councillor Stephen Johnston said he was also frsutrated by the delays to the project.
“This project has been a conversation with the Central Okanagan Regional District since 2007,” said Johnston.
“To get through this whole process since 2015, and then throw it all back on the table and say ‘Yeah, we’re actually going to look at this whole resiliency thing’ four years after the project was initiated, one can’t help but think we’re just being monkeyed around.”
Trent said BC Hydro will now begin discussions with Fortis BC to get the final cost estimates needed to proceed with the transmission line enhancements.