Chatham-Kent landowners hire lawyer to oppose Hydro One line
Revise the Route group calls on council to demand alternate power line route
A group of landowners in Chatham-Kent are mobilizing to try to change the proposed route of a new high-voltage power line.
The residents say the route brings the 400 megawatt power line too close to existing homes and bisects farm fields, which will severely reduce property values and make farming difficult.
"It affects the topsoil because of the compaction, with all the construction putting these towers in, that affects the ability to grow certain crops like tomatoes," said farm owner Linda Nagle. The plans show the power line will cut her farmland in half on a diagonal.
She and the others have formed a group called Revise the Route.
"You're looking at some of the most intensely farmed land in this part of the country," said farmer Walter Charbonneau. "It's an obstruction and we're going to have to farm around it."
The power line is set to stretch from the Chatham Switching Station to a future Lakeshore Switching Station near the intersection of County Road 46 and Rochester Townline. The power line will follow a route just south of the Chatham area coming within hundreds of meters of homes including a new Indian Creek subdivision.
Stephanie Peltier-Bellamy's home on Willcox Street lies just 300 meters from where the power line will go. She has another property down 5th Line where she was going to build but has abandoned those plans.
She says property values will suffer.
"Studies show that can be anywhere from 10 to as high as 40 percent, depending on how close you are to the line," she said, adding she feels the power line will also block further development.
Some property owners will be expropriated.
"I'm definitely going to have to look for an alternative, build a new house, move into town," said Paul Scott, whose home lies in the path of the power line.
The group has proposed alternatives, which could include using better technology that could make use of the existing infrastructure.
"Two possibilities would be different wires, different conductors that can carry more power, and the second alternative is to be able to use capacitors to move more power through the existing infrastructure," said group member Bob Kerr.
Others say the line should at least follow fence rows so it doesn't impact fields. The group does concede that growth in Essex County has led to greater power needs.
The group says meetings with Hydro One have proved futile — "they were very complacent," said Peltier-Bellamy — and now it is petitioning mayor and council to challenge Hydro One to seek another route. The group is also seeking support from Chatham-Kent MPPs.
But Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Caniff says while he wants Hydro One to seek the path of least impact, there's little he can do as mayor to stop it.
"I empathize with their cause. I know it's impacting them and encourage them to get the appropriate help they need as far as to lobby the government, et cetera, to make changes to the route," said Caniff.
The group has hired Goderich lawyer Quinn Ross who says he will fight the proposed route at the Ontario Energy Board.
"Hydro One, for its part, is trotting out 1950s technology to address a 21st-century issue. Their proposed line marches again across the bread basket of the province while also threatening to permanently impair the development and expansion of critical rural town hubs like Comber," said Ross, who is critical of the power companies' tactics, but is also representing landowners who face expropriation.
"Gone is Hydro One's willingness to be creative and to support landowner education and independence. It's replaced instead with unilateral compensation policies and unbending expropriation counsel," said Ross, who has vowed to fight for compensation for the landowners.
"They will not go gently into that good night," said Ross, borrowing from poet Dylan Thomas.
In previous statements by Hydro One, Dan Levitan, Hydro One's vice-president of stakeholder relations, said the route was chosen because it had the least impact on a number levels.
"The preferred route scored highest across evaluation categories, which include the ability to reuse existing infrastructure assets ... and most importantly, from what we heard locally, had the minimal impact to agricultural and residential properties," said Levitan.
Levitan has said Hyrdo One has conducted numerous consultations with landowners but the people in the Revise the Route group says representatives aren't budging on the route.
"They were bound and determined to put it there and it didn't really matter what I said or what other people said," said Nagle.
- An earlier version of this story featured a picture of home in the path of the proposed power line. The owner has asked CBC News to remove the photo because the owner does not belong to the Revise the Route group and felt the inclusion of the photo inferred they belong to the group. CBC News has removed the photo and replaced it.Aug 27, 2021 12:01 PM ET
- An earlier version of this story stated that Stephanie Peltier-Bellamy's home was 600 metres away from the route of a proposed hydro line. It is in fact 300 metres.Aug 27, 2021 10:33 AM ET