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FortisBC takes possession of rural Kootenay land for substation

Invitation-only meeting saw about 50 residents attend

A select group of Area A residents met with FortisBC for an information session at the Beaver Valley Arena on Thursday, June 1, to discuss the imminent purchase of the former Lifely farm at 2064 Grieve Rd., and the construction of a substation on the property.

The invitation-only meeting saw about 50 residents from Moller, Old Salmo and Grieve Roads attend.

According to a Moller Road homeowner, whose property looks onto the farm, the meeting was heated at the beginning, with an intent to end it before it started. But the homeowner said the meeting progressed and information regarding local concerns was addressed.

FortisBC had proposed a site off Columbia Gardens Road near Mazzocchi Park on land owned by the Village of Fruitvale in 2022, but ran into local opposition over rezoning requirements that scuttled that proposal.

This time, FortisBC made a deal outside the village in Area A, of the regional district, purchasing private property from a local family, yet still held a consultation process with neighbouring residents.

“We really appreciate that about 50 neighbours came out to learn more and discuss their concerns with us,” FortisBC spokesperson Nicole Brown told the Trail Times. “Incorporating their feedback is a priority for us and we’ll continue to gather their feedback and incorporate that into the planning and construction of the new substation.”

Brown says FortisBC takes possession of the 10-acre parcel of land on June 7 and will begin gathering other information essential to design and construction, such as environmental and archaeological assessments.

An open letter to Fruitvale residents and FortisBC by Rick Fillmore, Trail Wildlife Association land use chair, raised many concerns regarding the impact the substation could have on a wildlife corridor and sensitive environment.

“The top section of the property is an old growth forest, with large cedar and cottonwood trees,” wrote Fillmore. “The environment of that section of land provides a wildlife corridor that whitetail deer use annually, migrating from the Pend d’Oreille Valley winter range to their summer range in the Beaver Creek bottom-lands. The deer are evident with sightings daily on the farm and Highway 3B.”

The Moller Road resident said FortisBC addressed questions about alternate locations, going through each of the 20 properties that the utility company considered.

Many were inadequate, such as the Zed Ranch which is located on a flood plain, some did not meet the required infrastructure standards, while others, the owners would not sell.

Many Beaver Valley residents maintain that the substation’s construction puts the wildlife corridor in jeopardy.

“Due to predation pressure, the deer rely on safe passage through their well-worn corridors, and seek refuge in forests like the one on the Lifely property. The canopy of trees on the property provides a wildlife sanctuary.”

According to Fillmore, utility structures and power-lines will completely disrupt and fragment the land use, negatively affecting dozens of deer, bears, bird species and multitudes of other wildlife that find safety and passage through the farm.

“It appears that this property has been purchased in haste: did Fortis’ environmental staff actually walk this property?” asked Fillmore, rhetorically.

“If they had, I am sure the need for environmental protection would have been evident.”

The company also sought input on what to do with the excess property once a decision was made on where to build the substation, which will only take up an estimated three acres. They presented several options from creating a park or community garden to subdividing and selling.

“We’ll be sharing what we learn with our neighbours and continue to work closely with them to incorporate their input,” Brown added. “Including where to place the station to minimize the impacts and what they would like to see done with the remaining property.”

Whatever they decide, the Moller Road resident says they will likely be looking at a very different view from what is enjoyed today.

Jim Bailey

About the Author: Jim Bailey

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