Urs Ribary has a power transmission pole at the back of his property in the picturesque Village of Anmore.
Ribary, a professor of cognitive and neural sciences at SFU, is concerned that he’ll get another one, this time as close as 20 metres to his house.
According to the Anmore resident, this is what is going to happen under a plan by B.C. Hydro to build an additional high-voltage line from Coquitlam to Vancouver.
“If this comes, my wife said she wants to leave,” Ribary told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “You know, we have a young daughter, and it’s getting dangerous.”
Ribary has built a website (www.protectanmore.com) to channel opposition by a number of Anmore citizens against the B.C. Hydro plan for their neighbourhood.
With its Metro North Transmission Project, the provincial utility company expects to lay 10 kilometres of overhead cables and 20 kilometres of underground lines.
The lines will run from a substation in Coquitlam to another facility in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood in Vancouver, passing through Anmore, Port Moody and Burnaby.
The lines in Burnaby and Vancouver will be laid underground, and those in Anmore will be strung overhead.
According to Ribary, many residents in Anmore have told B.C. Hydro to put the new lines underground because of safety and health concerns, as well as potential losses to the values of their properties.
B.C. Hydro has decided to use its existing right-of-way for overhead lines through the residential area of Anmore.
This means that when the utility company seeks approval by the B.C. Utilities Commission for its transmission project, it will hear again from Ribary and his neighbours.
Ribary bought the nearly half-hectare property in 2007. If a second transmission pole is built in the lot, he is afraid he may either not be able to sell the property or take a huge loss.
“We have to move out to Abbotsford to get something similar,” Ribary said.
Studies are being done by B.C. Hydro before it makes an application before the B.C. Utilities Commission in 2018, according to the Crown corporation’s stakeholder engagement advisor Judy Dobrowolski.
“Basically, to build underground would be a lot more expensive than building overhead,” Dobrowolski told the Straight by phone about the demand by Anmore residents. “The right of way in question for the overhead line would be built has been in place since the early 60’s.”
She also said that under the plan, the number of poles in Anmore will be reduced because some will be consolidated.
“There are some properties getting a new pole, but there’s also properties who will be losing a pole that was on their property,” the B.C. Hydro executive said.
Regarding potential health impacts, Dobrowolski said that B.C. Hydro lines generate electric and magnetic fields that fall under international guidelines endorsed by the World Health Organization, and Health Canada.
“They’ve identified a limit of 2,000 milligauss, and our lines are well below that,” she said.
Asked about concerns regarding property values, Dobrowolski asserted that the existing right-of-way has been in Anmore for decades.
“It was there before the homes before the majority of homes were built in that area,” she said.
According to Dobrowolski, B.C. Hydro does not have the same right-of-way in Burnaby and Vancouver.
“In that case, we go underground because it’s more cost-effective than acquiring a whole new right of way,” she said.
Anmore resident Lynn Elen Burton believes that B.C. Hydro is ignoring calls to put new power lines underground because Anmore isn’t a big municipality.
“We’re only a village of 2,000 people. We don’t have a very big voice,” Burton told the Straight by phone.
The former humanities department chair at SFU recalled that when B.C. Hydro held public meetings in Anmore, residents asked representatives of the utility company if they are willing to live near power lines.
“None of the B.C. Hydro representatives indicated that they would not be worried about their children’s health if they lived close to the power lines,” Burton said.