A small group of families in the Peace River has banded together to fight plans by BC Hydro to construct a power line between Dawson Creek and Chetwynd to serve the booming gas industry in northeastern British Columbia.
The families say the transmission line will come within 40 metres of some homes without compensating the owners, while others are being offered buyouts that are far below current values for farmland in the area.
But Bruce Barrett, a vice-president in BC Hydro’s transmission group, said the project is going ahead only after lengthy public consultation and that deals have already been struck for the right of way on 75 of the 101 private land parcels on the route.
“As is usual with a long project like this, you will find that a few property owners either have different views than we do or feel that what they are being offered is unfair, but we believe that we are being very fair and transparent,” Mr. Barrett said.
He said BC Hydro makes offers based on professional appraisals and strives to get to a deal that works for both sides.
“We do all we can and we always try to make a very fair and generous offer to those that are affected by our projects, but we do always have to look out for the interests of our customers,” he said.
However, Linda Smashnuk, who for 40 years has lived with her husband, Layne, on an 11-hectare parcel, said she and her neighbours do not feel they have been treated fairly.
She said nine families in the area have talked to a lawyer about a possible class action suit, but going to court is a last resort.
“We have been under two years of unbearable stress from this, and Hydro’s answer is – if you don’t like it, move,” Ms. Smashnuk said.
She said that two years ago BC Hydro told residents of plans to build a 60-kilometre, 230-kilovolt overhead transmission line, replacing and greatly expanding a small existing line.
Ms. Smashnuk said she was told the line would come only a little bit closer to her home. “It turns out, closer to our house means within 35 metres.”
In a letter, BC Hydro has offered the Smashnuks $61,000 in compensation for the right of way.
“We asked them to get us a modular home and set it up on our property farther away from the line … they said no,” Ms. Smashnuk said.
Mr. Barrett said it is not unreasonable of BC Hydro to refuse to finance a house move.
“There are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of residents in British Columbia that have property within 35 metres of a power line,” he said. “It may seem intrusive to some, but it’s very, very common in British Columbia and all over Canada.”
Danny Cooper, a retiree who lives nearby with his wife, Diane, said the power line is going to pass 40 metres from his home, but because it is just outside the property line, they are not being offered compensation.
“I cannot live that close to a power line,” said Mr. Cooper, who is worried about the electromagnetic field.
“I’m disabled. I’m a senior. We raised our families here and expected to spend our retirement years here. It’s just not fair.”
Cindy Sipple, who raises horses on a quarter section with her husband, Buddy, said they have been told the line will pass right over their house. They were offered $300,000 for a buyout. But she said they cannot find similar property for less than $400,000, and they do not want to move.
“I’ve got my horse buried here. My dog is buried here … We want to stay on our land,” said Ms. Sipple, who complained that BC Hydro rejected her request to relocate the house, barn and riding ring to a far corner of the property.
Willis (Bill) Shore, who owns about 400 hectares, said BC Hydro needs to cross his land for more than two kilometres, but he has so far refused a deal out of concern for his neighbours.
“I know the line’s gotta go someplace and we need the power in the area, but I don’t feel people should be squeezed off their land without being compensated fairly,” he said. “I’m holding off signing until they start to deal with these people more decently.”