Hydro One receives energy board okay for 500kV power line

 Hydro One is over the first of three major hurdles in its plans to build a 500 kilovolt power line from the Bruce power faci­lity near Kincardine to its swit­ch­ing station in Mil­ton.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has approved Hydro One’s leave for construction application for the 180-km line, which will pass directly through Erin and the northeast corner of Wellington North.

In its decision, the OEB found the project to be in the public interest because of its potential impact on price, reliability, and quality of electricity service. The OEB concluded the economic benefits of the transmission line exceed its estimated cost of $635-million.

The OEB granted approval based on several conditions, the most notable of which is ap­proval of the environmental assessment – the second major hurdle Hydro One must overcome before starting construction.

A draft environmental as­sess­ment report was made available to the public last week for a 30-day review period. Hydro One plans to submit that draft to the Ministry of the Environment in November and expects a decision early in 2009.

“Obviously we’re hoping for approval,” project manager Gary Schneider said last week.

The draft document can be viewed at the website  hydro­one­networks.com and written comments must be received no later than Oct. 24.

The third hurdle for Hydro One is negotiating property rights with about 350 affected landowners, including about 30 to 40 in Erin and Wellington North.

Schneider said talks with private landowners are ongoing and he expects formal offers to be presented later this month, including financial incentives for early settlement to help avoid the expropriation pro­cess.

In most cases, Hydro One is seeking easement rights – placing the line and 49-metre towers on properties and paying landowners for the use of that property.

But in about 30 cases pro­vince-wide, including at least one each in both Erin and Wellington North, the proposed line passes over a principal residence or other building. In such cases, Hydro One is offering to buy out the entire property or move the building to another location.

Another major concern identified by residents at public meetings is the proposed line passes directly over a community park in Orton.

Schneider said Hydro One continues to meet with the Orton Com­munity Association, as well as East Garafraxa muni­cipal representatives, to discuss a possible solution.

“I’m confident we will come to a win-win situation for all three parties,” he said, noting Hydro One is negotiating the purchase of a new piece of land for the park.

Erin Mayor Rod Finnie said the Orton park may be located in East Garafraxa, but it is one the main concerns for Erin council because Orton is a border community, and a lot of town residents use that park.

“I’d be just as happy if it was going someplace else, but in a lot of ways … we don’t have a say in the matter,” Finnie said of the 500kV line.

Despite his misgivings, Fin­nie said it appears the major concerns of council are being ad­dressed and landowners seem “reasonably content” with property negotiations.

Wellington North Mayor Mike Broomhead did not re­turn a call from the Advertiser.

Construction of the Bruce to Milton line is scheduled to begin in early 2009. The new line – the largest expansion to Ontario’s transmission system in 20 years  – will be built alongside an existing line and will require a corridor that is 53 to 61 metres in width.

Two additional units at the Bruce complex, as well as several new wind energy projects coming on line in the near future, necessitated the line, which is expected to be in service by late 2011.

Hydro One will be holding several public information meet­ings next week, including:

– Oct. 6, from 4 to 8pm at the Regional Aquatic Centre, in Hanover;

– Oct. 7, from 4 to 8pm, at the Egremont Optimist Centre, in Holstein;

– Oct. 8, from 4 to 8pm, at the Royal Canadian Legion in Acton; and

– Oct. 9, from 4 to 8pm, at East Garafraxa Public School in Marsville.