Upper Campbell Lake residents still waiting for electricity

Plans to bring electricity to homes in the Upper Campbell Lake area continue to be on hold indefinitely

Plans to bring electricity to homes in the Upper Campbell Lake area continue to be on hold indefinitely.

That’s because BC Hydro put a halt to a program to provide electricity to remote B.C. communities due to budget constraints.

One of those communities feeling the impact is the Cedar Creek/Upper Campbell Lake region near Strathcona Park Lodge, nearly halfway between Campbell River and Gold River along Highway 28.

In 2012, residents of Cedar Creek and the Strathcona Regional District began meeting with Rhea Halfnight LeFlufy, the head of Hydro’s Remote Community Electrification Program. At an initial meeting, 85 per cent of area property owners were in favour of hooking up to BC Hydro’s power supply.

A working group formed, conducted a community survey and got a high level of support from the 90 land owners living in the area at the time. Roughly 60 of those were recreational residents and 15 lived in the area full-time.

BC Hydro did an economic analysis and assessed the neighbourhood – securing funding was to be the next step.

But it never got that far.

In 2013, after months of meetings and consultations, Hydro cancelled the electrification program.

“At the end of a long road of study and consulting, BC Hydro said we don’t have any money and we’re pulling the pin on this for awhile,” Leigh said at last week’s Strathcona Regional District meeting, to bring directors up to date. “So I talked to Ms. Halfnight LeFlufy and I said ‘all this work that we’ve done towards this project, can you re-employ it as soon as Hydro does have the money to proceed?’ and she said ‘oh yes, the work’s not wasted, when Hydro says they’ve got the money to proceed, the work is under our belts and we can proceed’. And that’s where it was left at.”

BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson said it was not an easy decision to cancel the program.

“The decision to put the program on hold was a difficult one and that status remains today,” Watson said. “We have been reviewing all programs and services to find areas to be more efficient and reduce costs.”

In the meantime, the Cedar Creek residents continue to generate their own electricity using generators, solar, wind and micro-power.

If the project does go ahead, Hydro would bear the costs of supplying power to the edge of the community. According to the economic study done by BC Hydro, it was determined that extending the power grid from the existing terminus at the Highway 28 and Argonaut Road intersection would be the cheapest option which Watson said would cost “in the millions of dollars, with cabin owners covering a small percentage of that cost.”

The land owners would also be responsible for electrification infrastructure costs within the area. The cost for all the property owners to connect to the distribution line was expected to be a one-time fee estimated at $750,000 or $10,000 per customer.

BC Hydro had been working with 11 remote B.C. communities to supply them with power when the utility cancelled its electrification program. Prior to that, Hydro brought service to eight communities – seven aboriginal and one non-aboriginal – under the program.