BC Hydro wants to extend its services to rural Strathcona

Residents in the Cedar Creek/Upper Campbell Lake area want to connect to BC Hydro's power supply

Bruce McKerricher and his neighbours use generators, solar, wind and micro-power to produce their own electricity.

They live off the BC Hydro power grid and if they want electricity, it’s up to them to generate it.

“It’s a different world up there,” says McKerricher, who lives in the Cedar Creek/Upper Campbell Lake area, near Strathcona Park Lodge, nearly halfway between Campbell River and Gold River.

McKerricher and several of his neighbours hope to take advantage of a BC Hydro program that allows remote communities access to BC Hydro’s services.

The program is the Remote Community Electrification Program led by Rhea Halfnight LeFlufy who met with property owners in the Upper Campbell Lake area last May.

A total of 85 per cent of property owners were in favour of hooking up to BC Hydro’s power supply.

“Coming out of the meeting they asked to be a part of the program and we’re working with the residents to develop a community electrification plan,” Halfnight LeFlufy said.

A working group of seven property owners and two BC Hydro representatives are seeking to get formal support from all 90 property owners in the area.

Roughly 60 of those are recreational residents and 15 are permanent, full-time residents.

“We had a public meeting with about 70 or 80 people,” McKerricher said.

“And we had a mail-out that reached 86 of the 90 homes. The response from that was pretty strong but no decision has been made.”

McKerricher said the next step is to have a formal process.

“If it is decided that we go, then it’s all or nothing,” he said.

“People who have land out there can’t say ‘I don’t want to pay because I have my own set-up’ and then five years later decide to pay.”

Halfnight Leflufy said BC Hydro requires everyone’s full support from the get go so some residents don’t end up paying for the service longer than others.

BC Hydro would bear the costs of supplying power to the edge of the community and the land owners would then be responsible for electrification infrastructure costs within the community.

The cost for all the property owners to connect to the distribution line is a one-time fee of $750,000 or $10,000 per customer.

The working group has reached out to the Strathcona Regional District to put up the capital up front and then recoup the costs through taxes over a period of time.

The other option is for the residents to pay the money themselves, which McKerricher said would be extremely difficult.

“It’s important for people to know there would be no increase of costs to other taxpayers in the Regional District,” McKerricher said. “Our group would be paying for this. I think this would be of interest to the community of Campbell River to have that kind of resource out there. Right now it’s off grid living.”

The BC Hydro grid ends at Quinsam Coal mine and one option is to extend that grid 26 kilometres to reach the community.

Or, Halfnight Leflufy said BC Hydro may look at a local solution, combining diesel generation and renewable energy such as micro-hydro or wind power.

The working group hopes to hear back from the Regional District, which listened to a presentation regarding the project on Wednesday afternoon, by late spring or early summer.

McKerricher said he hopes the community will be able to connect to BC Hydro electricity by 2014.

BC Hydro is currently working with 18 communities across B.C. to supply its power.  Since 2006 the program has supplied five communities with power.