Penticton group leads charge against power lines

Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands residents opposed to the Fortis power lines installed along the mountainside are gearing up for a long and tedious battle.

Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands residents opposed to the Fortis power lines installed along the mountainside are gearing up for a long and tedious battle.

“There is an alliance formed between private property owners, developers, business people, wineries, Heritage Hills and Penticton in terms of opposing the location of the lines and what Fortis has done with the rate increases. That group is continuing to do research and has planned some fundraising events this spring to help fund appeals,” said Doug Lychak, president of the Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands Residents Association. “We are looking both at court as well as appealing to the BCUC, who told us they will hold an appeal on the basis that we provide them with the facts that they erred in their decision on the basis of information they were provided in regards to their deliberations. We are also looking to a court appeal with regard to property values.”

Lychak said the group is looking to get something done by the end of they year, adding the issue goes beyond a powerline in someone’s backyard

“Tourism very much is the lifeline of the South Okanagan and you start dropping hydro poles and lines through the middle of what was once a beautiful area, people start scratching their heads,” he said

The residents are also appealing to the court of public opinion. The group is petitioning the public to ask for help to have FortisBC move high-voltage transmission lines from the existing right-of-way to an alternate route.

A petition was recently presented to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, who forwarded it to the utilities commission, provincial government and Fortis. The RDOS previously sent a letter to those groups suggesting painting the silver coloured poles as a possibly solution.

“We received a response,” said CAO Bill Newell. “It basically said we went through the regulatory process, thanks very much.”

The power line, which runs for 28 kilometres along the east side of Skaha Lake was upgraded from a 160-kilovolt circuit to a 230-kilovolt circuit. This meant an increase in size of the poles which were replaced in the summer months with larger ones made of steel.

Boundary Similkameen MLA John Slater has previously said there may have been some “misrepresentation on the impact the lines and towers have on the residents, adding  it was his goal to make sure the B.C. Utilities Commission hears the impacts on the neighbourhood.

Lychak said there are still plenty of opportunities for people to be involved in appealing. The Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands Residents Association is encouraging the public to sign their online petition at www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/otr.