FortisBC is undertaking a five year pilot project north and east of Nelson that hopes to keep the lights in the city during bad weather.
In an agreement with landowners, the utility will be identifying and cutting down trees outside its right-of-way that could fall into transmission lines.
Nicole Brown, corporate communications advisor for FortisBC, says the program will tackle a total of 1-2 kilometers per year along the 60 kilometer transmission line on the north shore of Kootenay Lake, which supplies Nelson Hydro customers. About half of that stretch needs to be logged.
“Trees have a significant impact, especially during extreme weather and causing prolonged outages,” Brown said.
FortisBC estimates trees falling into the right-of-way along that section accounts for half of all outages in any given year.
“It is quite a rugged area so what we do find is when there’s an extreme weather event, it’s extremely difficult for our crews to get to those areas which is why we identified those areas as high priority,” she said.
The trees to be taken down are being evaluated based on historical outages, tree rot and accessibility.
She says the idea came over a meeting with Nelson Hydro about a safe and effective solution without having to expand the right-of-way.
“We thought, why don’t we just ask property owners if they would be okay with us removing trees on their property. It was a pretty simple solution. There are some logistics in the background but in talking to property owners they were like, yeah, that makes sense to us too,” Brown explained.
FortisBC plans to work in the Longbeach area of the line in the spring as well as working on other transmission lines in Slocan Valley where the trees are thick.
FortisBC will spend $600,000 per year for the tree clearing on top of its regular vegetation management budget. That money is secured through 2024. The utility got approval to spend the additional money from the British Columbia Utilities Commission for the remote tree clearing.
This story has been updated at 9:19 a.m. Friday to correct an error at the source. The amount spent per year is $600,000, not $60,000.