Transmission line gets environmental nod

  • Mar. 2, 2011 6:00 p.m.

The provincial government has said yes to issuing an environmental permit for the proposed Northwest Transmission Line.

The line would extend the Skeena substation near Terrace 344 kilometres north to Bob Quinn. Expected taxes generated from the project are close to $100 million, and the three year construction phase is anticipated to provide 860 person years of full-time, direct employment.

The plan has been in the hands of the provincial government, specifically Environment Minister Murray Coell and Minister of Forests, Mines and Lands Pat Bell for review, a project they granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate last Wednesday.

The environmental assessment office report concluded the project is “not likely to have significant adverse effects,” the provincial press release states, “based on the mitigation measures and commitments included as conditions of the environmental assessment certificate.”

It doesn’t mean that the project will immediately move forward, however.  BC Hydro has to meet 71 commitments throughout various stages of the project, including developing and implementing a fish habitat conservation plan with consultations with First Nations, as well as developing and implementing an environmental monitoring program.

There are also provincial licences, leases and other approvals required before the project will be allowed to break ground and begin construction, but it’s an important step, BC Hydro Executive VP Greg Reimer said, one that he was very pleased to see move forward. He added that they’re still committed to completing the project by December 2013.

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad said the announcement is a “game changer” for the Northwest.

“Highway 37 holds enormous potential for the mining industry in British Columbia, and the power line is the key to unlocking that potential,” Rustad said.

Imperial Mines has earlier stated that the electrification of Highway 37 was key to its developing its Red Chris property, which lies 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake.

And that’s just one of the half dozen mining projects in that area who would find immense benefit from this project, Rustad said, who now have that much more of an incentive to get moving. Looking at how the economy has declined throughout the northwest, this is very pleasing to see and will mean a lot to the region, he added.

“It will change the economic fortunes of the northwest dramatically,” Rustad said. “We are going to see literally thousands of people employed … it’s a game changer for northwest B.C. “

Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson said it was an important step, but further steps need to be taken by BC Hydro when it comes to discussing the project with First Nation’s.

“I think overall it’s an important step but people should be aware that there’s still a very important process yet to be completed, and that’s around accommodation and consultation,” Donaldson said.

It was pleasing news for Smithers Mayor Cress Farrow.

“This is important for everybody in the northwest, to be able to look forward to the developments moving forward and to create employment,” Farrow said. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the news.”

It’s one more way to attract and keep the younger generation, Farrow said, who noted that the town’s already been working with mining companies such as Imperial Metals, who are very familiar with the Town of Smithers.

And it’s wealth that is easily shared between communities, Farrow said.

“It’s not going to be a question of either or Terrace or Smithers it’s going to be both of us are going to be winners and we always feel comfortable working together,” Farrow said. “A little bit of a rivalry going on but in this case we know that a mine and Highway 37 electrification is good for everybody in the North.”