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BC Hydro’s Merritt Area Transmission Project will run as close as 10 metres to several local homes, residents learned at a public meeting last Thursday.
Three 70-foot-tall poles and cables are expected to tower over the properties, scratching the southern boundary of eight Forksdale Avenue homes near the intersection of Dogwood Road on an existing BC Hydro right-of-way.
BC Hydro Senior Project Manager Andrew Leonard fielded questions from residents during the meeting at Bench Elementary.
“I think the general public doesn’t realize that there is only one line going into the city, so when that line is at capacity, there is not enough power to service the city,” he told the media. “By 2014, if we did nothing, Merritt could start to experience brownouts.”
Several residents said at a question-and-answer period that they are concerned about the health impacts of lines running so close to residential homes.
Research and Public Information Dissemination Program of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences in the United States said it is not certain that low-frequency electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure is linked to cancer.
However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer cited a link between low-frequency EMF and childhood leukemia.
Shauna Perkins, who helped organize the meeting between residents and Hydro, said she is concerned the lines could affect her children’s health.
“The transmission lines are very scary,” she said. “I don’t want to jeopardize my children.”
Others who live close to the proposed lines said they are also concerned about possible depreciation in the value of their homes.
“I know that everyone who resides off the south side of Forksdale opposes [the line],” Perkins added.
Option to Avoid Disturbance
BC Hydro had the option to improve the existing line, which runs through Lower Nicola, but weren’t able to come to terms with the Lower Nicola Indian Band.
Arnie Narcisse, executive director for LNIB, said BC Hydro is “cutting off its nose to spite its face.
“They basically wanted an expropriation of land,” he said. “They would dictate the use of that land and we couldn’t build anything under [the lines] or around it. We were looking for some repayment for previous use.”
He said the band was given $1,300 in the 1960s for the current line’s land access and Hydro offered $100,000 for the new line, which the band refused.
“I said to them, ‘That’s as much of an insult as the $1,300,’” he said. “BC Hydro has made a hell of a lot of money transporting on that line.”
He said the $38 million BC Hydro is expected to spend on the new line is much more than the costs to upgrade the existing line — the price wasn’t assessed.
“If they’ve got that much money to spend, then good for them.”
When asked, BC Hydro claimed the issue wasn’t about money.
“It has nothing to do with that,” Leonard said.
“We didn’t have enough time to finish discussions with the [LNIB].”
The existing line wouldn’t have an additional environmental impact, and disturbance to residents would be limited to the construction period itself.
Construction of the chosen line is scheduled to begin this fall.
The line is anticipated to meet Merritt’s service requirement for the next 30 years.
Nearly 60 employees are expected to work on the project.
Approximately five kilometres of the line will run close to Merritt residences and businesses, a BC Hydro press release states.
The project aims to upgrade the existing 37-kilometre transmission line between the Highland and Merritt substations near the southern section of Airport Road from 69 kilovolts to 139 kilovolts.
Hydro said this is necessary to accommodate an expected surge in electricity use from city development, including a pellet plant, hotels, Coquihalla resort and new subdivisions that are expected to open in the next several years.
BC Hydro estimates the project will cost $38 million.