Wild Border Watersheds

PROJECT: Northwest Transmission Line

A 287 kV transmission line under construction to supply power to proposed mines in the transboundary watersheds

Photo Credit: Aaron Hill


Project Map CEA Project Status BCEA Project Status

The Northwest Transmission Line (NTL) is a 287 kV industrial transmission line that runs 344 kilometers (214 miles) north from Skeena Substation near Terrace, British Columbia, to a new substation near Bob Quinn Lake on Highway 37. At a cost of $736 million, the NTL was built by BC Hydro, with additional funding from AltaGas and the Canadian government’s Green Infrastructure Fund. The NTL became operational in 2014. The power line will enable further development in the region such as river diversion dams and open pit mines. Imperial Metals built a 93 km, 287 kV extension of the NTL from Bob Quinn to Tatogga Lake and the Red Chris mine. BC Hydro bought the NTL extension for an additional $52 million.


BC Hydro signed impact benefits agreements with all eight First Nations and the Nisga'a Nation within the NTL project region. AltaGas contributed $180 million to construction, while the Government of Canada contributed $130 million through the Green Infrastructure Fund. BC Hydro, a provincial Crown Corporation, is responsible for the remaining costs, which during construction ballooned from an initial estimate of $404 million to $736 million.

In March 2013, Imperial Metals and BC Hydro announced that Imperial Metals would build a 287 kV extension of the NTL to the proposed Red Chris mine. BC Hydro agreed to buy the 287 kV NTL extension for $52 million, and to build a smaller power line from Tatogga Lake to Iskut. The line to Red Chris did not require a new environmental assessment, and was exempt from reviews that would normally be required to determine if it is necessary or if construction costs have been properly assessed.


The Northwest Transmission Line cuts through a 344 km long swath of mostly wild country, impacting scenic and ecological values along the route and degrading previously protected areas such as Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park. The real impact of the NTL, however, is not the power corridor itself, but rather what it will bring. The power line is a giant industrial project, both in its cost, and its economic and environmental impact on the transboundary region. Proponents tout the NTL as a “green” project that will provide cleaner energy and economic stimulus to a depressed region. In reality, it is a massive subsidy to industry, opening the region to large-scale mining and hydro development and providing power for new proposed mines.


The NTL could transform the region into an industrial zone. The AltaGas Forest Kerr river diversion dam, an “anchor project” for the NTL, is now operational on the Iskut River, and there are at least 18 proposed run-of-river projects in the region that could tie into the NTL. The power line could also lead to multiple large-scale mining projects, such as Red Chris, Galore Creek, Schaft Creek, KSM and numerous other exploration projects whose proponents have all said the NTL is essential to their development. In addition, the NTL could lead to a road and power line that connects B.C. and Alaska, cutting across the wild B.C.-Alaska border.

Related News

Northwest Transmission Line Canadian Federal Environmental Assessment Process


CNSC or NEB is the Responsible Authority

CEA Agency is the Responsible Authority (45 days for screening)

No screening required. CEAA 2012 does not apply.

Regulatory EA process by CNSC or NEB
(public participation)

Public comments on whether an EA is required
(20 days)

Panel Review (2-yr limit). Public comments collected. "Interested parties" can participate in hearings

Standard Review
(1-year limit).
Public participation

Exempt from federal EA due to substitution or discretion

Exempt from CEAA 2012 due to equivalency


Northwest Transmission Line British Columbia Environmental Assessment Process


Scope and
process for
determined by

(30-day public
comment period)


evaluated for
completeness by

Application review
(Public comment

Assessment report
prepared by EAO


Pre-application: no time limit

Completion evaluation: 30 days

Application review: 180 days

Decision: 45 days