Confusion over hydro poles stops construction
A controversial run-of-river power project, which stirred up Pemberton residents when first approved in 1999, is in the spotlight once again.
Construction work on new power poles, which residents say were never part of the original power deal, began about three weeks ago for the Miller Creek hydroelectric project.
"The power lines are higher than what was expected (some up to 15 feet higher) and there are more, about 33 per cent more," said Susan Gimse, director for Electoral Area C in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
In a direct response to the public complaints, BC Hydro has ordered EPCOR, the Alberta-based energy company developing the project, to stop construction work until there is a public meeting.
Residents, especially those living on the Pemberton Meadows Road where the new poles will be built, are upset and worried about the latest development in the project.
"It's definitely not what people were led to believe," said one local farmer who asked not to be named.
Gimse says the confusion about the hydro poles stems as far back as 1999. At that time Miller Creek Power Ltd. owned the 26-megawatt power project.
They put forth two proposals to the community to bring the power from Miller Creek to the Pemberton substation.
The first proposal, in which the power lines would snake down the mountainside across private property, met with immediate public outcry Residents were concerned the poles would scar the landscape.
"The transmission route was changed as a result of community opposition," said Gimse.
The alternative proposal was to follow the existing transmission route along Pemberton Meadows Road.
In looking back over all the correspondence, Gimse says the exact way to move the power was never really clarified.
In some cases the company referred to the existing lines, in other cases the existing poles, and still other cases referred to the existing right of way to transmit the power.
"We didn't catch it," she said.
In May last year, EPCOR bought Miller Creek Power Ltd.
The Miller Creek hydro project is EPCOR's second hydroelectric investment in B.C. In 2000, the company bought Brown Lake Hydroelectric Station near Prince Rupert.
"We buy the projects from the developer after they have been permitted," said Bob Heath, site manager for EPCOR.
He agrees that the proposed power transmission route was ambiguous at best and there was an inconsistency in the statements.
This is why residents along the Pemberton Meadows Road were shocked to see new culverts on the road three weeks ago and construction workers planning to install new poles.