With 230 kV of electricity traveling for the first time through its new $120 million Kootenay transmission system, Aquila (formerly West Kootenay Power) is bringing to life one of the largest projects in the company's 106-year history in the region. Not since construction of the first power plants from 1897 to the early 1940s, and more recent construction of a 230 kV transmission line between Kelowna and Vernon - a project one-tenth in size - has the BC Interior benefited from a utility project of this magnitude or importance.

Energized to date are one 230-kV transmission line, and the 63-kV lines connecting the Brilliant Switching Station to the new Brilliant Terminal Station near the Castlegar Golf Course and the Warfield Terminal Station to the Emerald Switching Station at Teck Cominco's Warfield facilities near the company's smelter in Trail. The system will begin carrying its first loads this week.

The next major step in energizing the new system is to interconnect it with other systems that will enable power to be transmitted through the provincial grid. By early 2004, it is expected that the new system will carry a full load, at which time Aquila and its customers will begin realizing the benefits of the project. They include an improved power grid to support regional growth and economic development, and increased power efficiency, reliability and safety for both customers and powerline workers.

The Kootenay 230-kV System Development project was designed to replace the aged, unreliable and costly transmission system serving the region. It includes construction of approximately 50 kilometers of new transmission line, two new terminal stations at Brilliant and Warfield, upgrades to four switchyards at dams on the Kootenay River, and expansion of the BC Hydro switchyard at Kootenay Canal. Construction activities have generated more than 100,000 person-hours of labour and $10 million construction dollars to the direct benefit of many local workers and businesses.

The decommissioning phase of the project will begin this fall with crews scheduled to remove old 63-kV lines between Trail and South Slocan, improving the local aesthetics. Aquila, with input from stakeholders and the public, is developing a Decommissioning Management Plan that sets strict standards for removing old poles and lines to ensure environmental, community, service interests and obligations are met.