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EMF Studies

09 September 2016

Canada: Richmond, British Columbia: Transmission Lines Plan Needs Review

A rendering of the BC Hydro power lines across the
Fraser River into Richmond
Digging Deep column: Transmission lines plan needs review
by Jim Wright, Richmond News, 
7 September 2016

“I am deeply concerned about the overhead transmission lines. What are the health risks? How would it affect the viewscape?”

These are a couple of questions asked by Coun. Carol Day regarding BC Hydro`s plan to reroute power lines from a decommissioned Massey Tunnel by erecting three transmission towers: two on the west side of Deas Island Regional Park, near the south and north shores, and one on the Richmond side of the Fraser River. Transmission lines would hang between them.

The third tower is not depicted in the promotional information, perhaps so it won’t be noticed until it rises higher than a 37-storey building.

Day has good reason to be worried. There was a drawn-out furor in Tsawwassen about electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from high-voltage overhead lines, with possible links to health problems like leukemia. And if towers start dangling high-voltage lines over the park, there won’t be much left of viewscapes and viewers.

As a recent Metro Vancouver report puts it, “The proposed bridge and the associated BC Hydro transmission relocation project will . . . create permanent noise, debris and visual impacts.”

The City of Richmond has quite rightly argued that the towers are the worst option for a transmission route. But despite “consultation” with Richmond and Metro Vancouver representatives, as well as a few citizens, BC Hydro is sticking with its initial bad idea.


Power line plan for Fraser River

And it`s not like there aren`t options. An engineer who took part in the public consultation tells me it’s safe and easy enough to lay transmission cable “within a box girder on, under or above the bridge deck.” For Hydro, though, it’s probably cheaper to quickly build separately — with no careful cooperating — before people catch on.

Moreover, if it’s money BC Hydro wants to save, it should scrap the Site C damn.

Better yet, get Port Metro Vancouver to not dredge the ship channel four metres deeper and run a transmission cable under the riverbed. That might even save $3.5 billion, the stated cost of a bridge.

What we urgently need now is a federal environmental assessment, preferably by review panel, to assess the overall impact of the Massey project, including Hydro and Port Metro aspects. It would have teeth, unlike the feeble B.C. assessment that ignores such aspects.

Our best chance is to support the powers who care. We need to involve Metro Vancouver and at least one Member of Parliament who has the prime minister’s respect and a belief in action to save the Fraser.

Richmond’s mayor, Malcolm Brodie, and councillor Harold Steves are Metro Vancouver leaders, while MP Joe Peschisolido could have influence in Ottawa.They will be key to getting the federal review started.

Jim Wright is a long-time community activist.

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