Fortis seeking green light for Castlegar facility

Aging stations in Warfield and South Slocan has FortisBC Inc. asking for the go ahead to centralize operations in Castlegar

Aging stations in Warfield and South Slocan has FortisBC Inc. asking for the go ahead to centralize operations in Castlegar with a new $20.7 million facility.

The company released a public notice this week describing the proposed Kootenay Operations Centre, that, if okayed by the B.C. Utilities Commission, will break ground next year on Ootischenia Road south of the West Kootenay Regional Airport.

That means the Kootenay station service personnel currently housed in the Warfield Complex would relocate to Castlegar into a much larger space. However, the building will continue as the base for power line technicians, says Michael Allison from FortisBC communications.

“The Warfield complex houses the Kootenay station service group which maintains the distribution and transmission electrical substations in the boundary and West Kootenay area,” he told the Trail Times Wednesday. “The proposed Kootenay Operations Centre helps us centralize the location of our personnel, allowing us to serve our customers better, which would result in operations efficiencies and cost savings.”

Allison was not specific on how many employees would be affected by the move.

The proposed new centre addresses the age, condition and potential code compliance issues of the existing generation facilities in both Warfield and South Slocan, explained Allison, noting the latter’s proximity to certain hazards.

“The South Slocan generation site contains a group that responds to emergencies, and in order to do that people need timely access to that site to be able to carry out their duties,” he said.

“It’s located a bit north of our central area, so by moving more central we are able to be in touch with each other in person a lot faster and be able to respond to emergencies better without having to consider condition of roads, and other factors like that.”

Before anything moves ahead, as a regulated utility, FortisBC has to apply for approval from the independent provincial agency, the BCUC.

Part of that process involves notifying the public of the proceeding, which gives those interested in intervening, time to register.

Interested parties opposed to the construction of the new operations centre must register online or by writing to the commission by Aug. 5.

“Since we are regulated we have to go through a regulatory process with the BC Utilities Commission,” said Allison. “This does allow our customers and other parties to ask questions of the project and ensure there is a definite case to build this centre.”

When registering with the BCUC, “interveners” are required to identify issues they intend to pursue and indicate the extent of their involvement in the review process.

Anyone not in opposition of the project, but interested in following the proceeding can view updated regulatory documents on the BCUC website, reminds Allison. “This is to ensure that we are spending money wisely to the benefit of our customers. As a regulated utilities it’s up to the BC Utilities Commission to decide whether or not we are able to proceed with these kinds of projects.”

The decision is expected this fall,  following the procedural conference which is slated for Oct. 2 in Vancouver.

According to FortisBC’s 2014 annual report, the Warfield station is referred to as a control centre, where the company carries out monitoring, control and real-time management of its generation, transmission and distribution facilities. The control centre coordinates with BC Hydro to ensure the appropriate monitoring and control of transmission equipment is maintained 24 hours a day.

To read the public notice in full, pick up the Trail Times Thursday, July 30 edition and turn to Page 8.