2,000 revolt at idea of overhead lines
DELTA: Residents’ groups fighting powers that be to halt building of new power lines
BY LENA SIN AND ELAINE O’CONNOR
Delta residents are making one last try to gain power for the people — and lose the overhead power lines.
About 2,000 people representing 60 interest groups came out to a community rally at South Delta Secondary yesterday afternoon.
The demonstration, organized by Tsawwassen’s Spirit of Delta citizen’s group, was held in a last-ditch effort to get Premier Gordon Campbell to halt the controversial overhead, high-voltage power-line project that has residents fuming.
Organizer Kevin Wright says residents are uniting to “save Tsawwassen” from what they see as overdevelopment — the power lines, the new South Fraser Perimeter Road component of the Gateway Project and the multibillion dollar Deltaport expansion.
“This is a 911 call,” Wright said. “What we’re doing collectively is calling out to the premier to say: ‘Save Tsawwassen!’”
The rally was the latest in a three year battle to have B.C. Hydro bury new power lines instead of erecting 36-metre-high towers over neighbourhoods — a plan that would affect local property values and pose a potential health hazard, residents claim. They estimate 135 homes will be directly affected.
The community is also concerned about possible health effects of long-term exposure to higher electromagnetic fields, including increased risk of childhood cancers like leukemia. Although no studies have definitively proved or disproved a link between long-term exposure to high-voltage power lines and human health risks, the Canadian Cancer Society has come out against high-voltage power lines being built near homes and schools in Tsawwassen.
“I’ve lived in Tsawwassen for 18 years and apparently every government at any level doesn’t know Tsawwassen exists. They just do what they want out here. Big money talks and they just ignore, oh, I don’t know, the 24,000 of us who live here,” said 74-year-old Jackie Davidson.
“If government has a conscience, I think it’s important that they listen to the people and act on their behalf,” said Ray Higgs, a long-time resident.
The lines, using the existing right of way, would be within 20 m of South Delta Secondary and near to South Park and English Bluff elementarys.
Scott Mitchell, who was born and raised in Tsawwassen, said he came out to the rally for his son and daughter. “I want them to have what I had,” said Mitchell, who fears the health and safety impacts of a power line. “There are so many other options. It’s wrong to destroy a community like this.”
The government announced in March it would run the lines overhead. Seventy existing wooden poles would be replaced by 20 new, taller steel power poles at 18 locations. The new, higher towers are 230 kilovolts compared with the old 138-kv lines. The new lines will help supply 700,000 Vancouver Island residents with power.
Burying them would add an extra $30 million to the $260-million project, according to B.C. Transmission Corp. estimates, which residents refute. The government has also maintained that the power-line plans meet all health and safety regulations.
Bruce Barrett, spokesman for the B.C. Transmission Corp., said the line is needed because the demand for electricity on the Island is projected to grow by about 28 per cent over 20 years. The existing lines to be replaced are 50 years old and beyond their lifespan.
Residents who banded together as Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL), have spent at least $500,000 fighting the BCTC and the government in court to overturn the decision, to no avail. In December, they were denied leave to make a Supreme Court of Canada appeal of an April B.C. Court of Appeal decision, which favoured the BCTC’s right to go forward.