West Kelowna  

Mayor wants more power

Last night’s power outage affected 22,000 customers after a fire broke out along the only line that serves the west side of Okanagan Lake.

Residents from West Kelowna to Summerland were all left in the dark for approximately nine hours. Some people made the most of it by finding interesting things to do during the outage. Had it happened during one of the colder winter months, it might not have been all fun and games.

It also brings up the need for a secondary power line, an issue that has been voiced for several years – including earlier this summer when the Smith Creek fire came dangerously close to power lines feeding West Kelowna.

Mayor Doug Findlater says it first came to council’s attention seven years ago, but they were assured by BC Hydro that the line was in good shape and a secondary option was not needed.

“We experienced the threat this summer from the (Smith Creek) fire, where we could have lost the line at that point, but didn’t and we were thankful,” he says.

“I met with BC Hydro a couple of months ago. They’re working on it, they have the business plan open, and we followed up again last week at UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities).”

That’s when he says BC Hydro agreed to a deadline whereby a new line will be built, but it remains unclear when that will actually happen.

According to Findlater, the decision and timeframe for BC Hydro is based on risk assessment.

“This line is actually (compared to other lines) very reliable. It doesn’t go down very often,” he says.

“We can see that when there’s an outage, it’s usually a local outage as opposed to the transmission line. So they actually consider it rather low risk.”

But the West Kelowna mayor points out that he is more concerned with the consequences if a significant outage befalls his constituents during a prolonged cold spell.

“It could ultimately, if it went on for several days, lead to evacuations of care centres. People couldn’t stay there because it could get cold, or they couldn’t get fed, and so on. That’s a different kind of risk, but it’s not in their calculations. In any event, we now have a commitment and we’re pleased with that.”

Findlater expects to hear the results of BC Hydro’s assessment sometime next month, adding there are three options:

  • An alternate line brought in from Merritt
  • A line from the Vernon substation in the north
  • A submarine line from Fortis in Kelowna

Each of those lines are tentatively priced around $50 million, but that’s before right-of-ways and property easements and assessments have been taken into account, which could double the price.

“BC Hydro has some autonomy. It’s not in their long-term capital plan and they have to go through the process of getting it in their plan. Even in the best case scenario, I doubt you’ll see it resolved next year, but hopefully within the next five years.”


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