BC Hydro has exceeded the budgets on four major transmission line projects in recent years, with the combined overruns totalling half a billion dollars.
The biggest overrun was on the Northwest Transmission Line, constructed to supply electricity to mines and other developments in the northwest corner of the province.
Budgeted at $395 million when Premier Christy Clark took office four years ago, the project had multiple upward revisions, the largest approved by the BC Hydro board just days after the last provincial election.
“Disappointing,” Finance Minister Mike de Jong called it. Which didn’t begin to capture the now-they-tell-us outrage from the New Democrats, rightly suspecting Hydro of holding back on the bad news until the votes were counted.
The Northwest line is now complete, with the finance ministry reporting the finished price at $716 million (“trailing costs remain”), down a bit from the high-water-mark budget of $746 million reported just after the election.
Only in the realm of government finance would the lower finished cost be characterized as coming in “under budget.” More accurate to say final cost was 80 per cent higher than the first budget.
The tiny community of Iskut along Hwy37 North celebrated a switch from diesel-generated power to hydro-electric power Dec. 18.
And thanks to 400 feet of LED icicle lights provided by B.C. Hydro for the occasion which were then strung up at the community’s administration building, the switch over marked the end of years of dependence upon diesel generation.
“It was a split second,” said Iskut Band operations and maintenance manager Henry Carlick of the event which took place at 10:45 a.m. Dec. 18.
“The lights blinked for a few seconds. We thought it was going to take time but I guess it was just a flick of the switch and it was done,” he said.
The hydro-electric power flowing to Iskut stems from BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, a 344km 287kv line running north of Terrace to a substation at Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North. A second 287kv line, called the Iskut extension, then runs 93km north of Bob Quinn to another substation at Tatogga Lake.
BC Hydro’s $736-million Northwest Transmission Line — much desired by B.C.’s mining industry, but controversial for going over budget and its lack of public review — has been turned on.
It wasn’t like flipping a switch, but more of a gradual process that started in mid June as the utility began powering up, bringing to life a new high-voltage substation at Bob Quinn, 344 km north of Terrace, and tying in AltaGas’ 195-megawatt run-of-river independent power project. By July 15, the line was fully electrified.
But only time will tell whether it is an enterprising bid to unlock some $18-billion worth of investment in new mines along the corridor or a costly experiment in promoting economic development.
(To read complete source article, click "The Vancouver Sun")
THE OFFICIAL completion of BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line was recognized today with a plaque unveiled at the crown corporation’s Skeena Substation, Kilometre 0 of the line which stretches 344 kilometres north of Terrace to a newly-built substation at Bob Quinn.
The $746 million 287 kilovolt line was energized last month with the goal of providing stable and affordable power to mining and other developments and to transmit power into the provincial grid from power projects in the region.
Calgary-based AtlaGas is the first customer for the line by feeding power into it from its Forrest Kerr run-of-river project along the Iskut River, the first and largest of three such projects owned by the company.
“We are pleased to announce that we have safely commissioned and energized the largest construction project in our history,” said AltaGas chair and CEO David Cornhill in a recent release.
The first customer to take power from the line is to be Imperial Metals of Vancouver for its Red Chris copper mine which is now being commissioned.
After a construction effort that took over two years and hundreds of millions of dollars of government financing to finish, BC Hydro has quietly announced the activation of the 344 kilometre Northwest Transmission Line (NTL).
The operators of a wilderness lodge in northwestern B.C. are frustrated they will not able to draw power from the recently completed Northwest Transmission Line.
BC Hydro is in the process of commissioning the $700 million power project, which runs about 350 kilometres north of Terrace alongside Highway 37, and it is expected to come online sometime this month.
The high voltage line is expected to bolster mining and private hydroelectric power projects in northwestern B.C., reduce the use of diesel generators in the area and cut greenhouse gas emissions. It could also eventually connect Alaska with the North American transmission grid.
But while the new transmission line passes within 300 meters of the Bell 2 Lodge, which relies on diesel generators for power, the lodge won't be able to use it for power, according to Mike Watling, the sales director at the lodge.
INSPECTION teams are now going from tower to tower along the 344 kilometre length of BC Hydro's Northwest Transmission Line, methodically checking each one prior to the line being energized sometime next month.
The checks are part of the commissioning of the $736 million 287 kilovolt line, construction of which was officially completed June 7, says Jim Shepherd, the BC Hydro manager in charge of the project.
The new Northwest Transmission Line passes a few hundred metres from the Bell 2 Lodge, but part-owner Mike Watling says BC Hydro is making it far too expensive for him to hook up to the electric system.
Watling's MLA Doug Donaldson, who represents Stikine for the New Democratic Party, says the situation is "ludicrous" and part of a pattern of the BC Liberal government neglecting major parts of the economy.
(To read complete source article, click "The Tyee")
BC Hydro has been cited for a slew of non-compliance problems related to ongoing construction of two major transmission lines, according to freedom of information documents obtained by The Vancouver Sun.
The documents identify a lack of sediment controls, potential for the spread of invasive plant species, smouldering burn piles during a fire prohibition, a stop-work order to prevent stream damage, lack of environmental monitoring and oversight, and both heavy equipment and felled trees found in creeks.
The problems are connected to the 344-kilometre Northwest Transmission Line being built from Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake and the 247-kilometre Interior to Lower Mainland Transmission Line from Merritt to Coquitlam. The projects are due for completion this spring and 2015, respectively.
(To read complete source article, click "The Vancouver Sun")
The graceful steel spires stand at regular distances along the highway. It’s as if a giant millipede has threaded its way over the steep roadside ridges, swept out a swath of forest with its belly, and lost a long, straight leg with every step. We are pulled over on the side of Highway 37, just north of Bell 2 Lodge, looking up at the biggest power line project that BC Hydro has undertaken in decades.
Last summer, John Grace, one of the world's elite kayakers, traveled more than 3,000 miles from his North Carolina home into the wild northwest corner of British Columbia, to explore the Iskut River. It's the biggest tributary of the Stikine River, which flows all the way to the Alaska panhandle coast, and together they're the kind of big, untamed salmon-rich river system no longer found in the American West. On a sunny August day, deep in the backcountry, Grace and a few friends paddled toward the jaws of Iskut Canyon, hoping to reach a four-mile stretch of surging whitewater that no human had conquered before.
As they neared the canyon, the haunting silence of the rainforest closed in around them. Suddenly they found themselves in the midst of a vast construction camp. Workers were boring a tunnel into the mountain, part of a hydropower project to harness the great force of the river.
(To read the complete source article, click "High Country News")
Loggers say poor quality of material and distance to mills reduce market for timber
By Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun
BC Hydro is burning most of the timber it is cutting along the 340-kilometre-long route of its Northwest Transmission Line north of Terrace, saying the quality of the wood and sheer remoteness of the project make it uneconomic to salvage.
Hydro has warned residents along the route to expect smokey and hazy skies as contractors burn hundreds of thousands of trees — almost all of the estimated 490,000 cubic metres of wood that is now being cleared along the right-of-way for the $404 million project.
Ironically, one of the environmental arguments Hydro makes for the new line is that electrification will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in northwestern B.C.
(To read the complete source article, click "The Vancouver Sun")
British Columbia's government is hitching its economic hopes for the province to a boom in resource development. Much of that is slated for the northwest. Resource journalist Christopher Pollon traveled to the region to learn how an anticipated boom of power lines, new mines and hydro projects will affect northern communities – for better and worse.
(To read complete source articles, click "The Tyee")