A small but determined group of Tsawwassen residents continued their fight to prevent high-voltage power line construction Thursday by blocking access to their neighbourhood with parked cars.
“The trucks came and tried to get in and we wouldn’t move our cars,” said resident Tina Ryan, who took part in the morning action on 13A Street.
A handful of cars were parked along the narrow roadway, apparently not violating parking laws but making access for large trucks impossible.
Ryan said the B.C. Transmission Corporation had intended to resume work on a power line pole in her backyard Thursday, which is in the right-of-way of the Vancouver Island Transmission Reinforcement project.
Thursday’s blockade was the latest in a string of grassroots resistance and failed legal action organized by ad-hoc neighbourhood groups like Tsawwassen Residents Against High Voltage Power Lines, Mothers against Power Poles, and Spirit of Delta.
“Everybody keeps saying, ‘oh it’s over, give up,’ but it’s not. Those lines aren’t up yet,” Ryan said. “A pretty significant group of people still feel that they can do something.”
Last month, the BCTC obtained a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to stop owners of four properties, including Ryan’s, from interfering with construction on the power lines.
Although Ryan said she doesn’t believe parking legally violates that injunction, BCTC president and CEO Jane Peverett begs to differ.
Peverett said the transmission corporation is seeking an enforcement order for the injunction which would authorize police to take action against such attempts to block construction. The process could take a few days, she said.
Delta police were present Thursday, but couldn’t take action due to the lack of an enforcement order.
Const. Paul Eisenzimmer described the morning’s actions as: “Not necessarily a legal protest, but not a protest that we can take enforcement against.”
Delta mayor Lois Jackson said she sympathizes with the protesters’ frustration, but said she can’t support people taking the “law into their own hands.”
She said the city has already spent $200,000 on trying to find a better way to solve the problem of the aging lines, which have been in place since the 1960s, long before much of the neighbourhood.
“But in the final analysis there’s decisions being made by those that have the power,” Jackson said. “And the bottom line is local government does not have the power.”
Ryan, a mother of twin nine-year-old boys, said she’s become convinced the new high-voltage lines will be a serious health risk. And she’s still reeling from receiving an envelope last month stuffed with the results of BCTC surveillance of protesters, something she calls “a gross invasion of privacy.”
Her neighbour, Duncan Holmes, said he’s upset about “the cavalier manner in which the people of Tsawwassen have been treated.” He said construction has disrupted their lives, with workers on site even in the midst of Canada Day barbeques.
Peverett said the B.C. Utilities Commission and environmental assessors have concluded the project poses no health risks.
“Over the course of three and a half years I believe their concerns have been looked at multiple times and addressed very thoroughly,” she said. “And so we come to where we are today.”
Catherine Rolfsen, Vancouver Sun
4 July 2008