Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coquitlam opposed to plan for power lines

Citing issues around “construction fatigue,” a loss in property values and the increased chance of localized electrical shocks, Coquitlam council voiced its opposition Monday to any new overhead power lines in residential areas of the city.  
The move comes as BC Hydro prepares to upgrade its grid to increase capacity across Metro Vancouver.
Three different choices have been presented to Coquitlam in order to meet that demand, though both staff and council oppose any option that includes the addition of new overhead lines.
“We think there are numerous concerns with additional overhead transmission lines,” said Dana Soong, Coquitlam’s manager of utility programs. “There [are] potential health issues related to electric and magnetic fields from the power lines.”
Slated for completion in 2018, the three options feature different alignments along hydro rights-of-way and through existing road corridors spanning Coquitlam, Anmore, Belcarra, Burnaby and Vancouver. At least two of those options are situated in the Lansdowne area, near portions of Scott Creek and the Coquitlam Crunch trail. There are fears in that area over the increased likelihood of induction shocks if the power grid is expanded.
“If you walk there on a rainy day and the grass is wet, walking through the grass you’ll get zapped,” said Coun. Mae Reid. “Your ankles feel like they’re being bitten by a bunch of little ants.”
Homes on the east side of that right-of-way have a 50-metre tree buffer separating them from the lines, though some of those trees would be removed. City staff said that removal would damage the riparian zone next to Scott Creek and nearby parks.
As for the potential loss in property values, Soong pointed to a similar situation that played out in Tsawwassen in 2008. He said resident opposition was widespread to BC Hydro buying 104 homes, then attempting to re-sell them for $70,000 under market value. By contrast, the proposed Tri-Cities line would be longer and affect more homes in Coquitlam, according to Soong.
Council agreed to write a letter voicing concerns to Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett. BC Hydro hopes to have a lead alternative identified in the next few months, with a public consultation to follow in the fall. From there, an application to the BC Utilities Commission to construct the project will likely be filed in 2015.