Northwest Transmission Corridor: Alaska Power and the Bleeding of the Northwest


From – Feb 18, 2011

by Christopher Pollon

There’s a sucking sound coming from B.C.’s northwest
corner, barely audible now, but sure to crescendo as the electrical grid
is extended beyond the city of Terrace into a vast copper and gold rich
hinterland after 2013.

The source is the Alaska-B.C. intertie — a scheme planned and feverishly promoted yesterday
in Juneau, Alaska — that would connect the Alaska Panhandle to the
North American power grid through northern British Columbia. (See a map here and the sidebar to this story).

Positioned by Canadian and U.S. federal
governments as a green infrastructure project to combat climate change,
this Alaska-driven plan is paving the way for a new resource haul road
through the Iskut River valley to Alaska tidewater.

Activists and at least four northern B.C.
mayors have warned that Bradfield Road will one day provide a closer and
more economical route to funnel B.C. minerals and timber through U.S.
ports, shifting the axis of trade away from Stewart, Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

Nathan Cullen heard all about the Bradfield Road during his first year as the federal MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley
in 2004. “Some Alaskans approached me and said, ‘Here’s the project,
and we’ll put this road in for free, and we’ll ship all your goods as a
nice courtesy,'” he says. “If anybody offers you anything for free,
especially from Alaska, you should be worried. The idea of cutting off
Canadian ports from being involved in the resource sector is not on, and
we’ll resist it.”

But the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL), (see map here)
when fully built out, will extend the North American grid to within 35
miles of the Alaska-B.C. border. Once the grid connection to Alaska is
established, says Chris Zimmer, a Juneau Alaska-based campaign director
for Rivers Without Borders, a resource haul road to Alaska is next.

“The grid intertie is going to need a
right-of-way and access roads, so the next step is formalizing that road
into a resource haul road,” says Zimmer. “The Bradfield Road is an
Alaskan road designed to drain future resources out of B.C. at a frantic
and unsustainable rate.”

Alaska-BC grid connection moving forward

The B.C. right-of-way for the future Alaska
grid connection is already being explored. In Nov. 2010, the BC
provincial government issued an “investigative use permit”
to North Coast Power Corporation to explore about 25,000 hectares of
Crown land — a long narrow strip of land extending from the future B.C.
grid terminus to the Alaska border (see map. The expressed purpose of the permit was “investigating the feasibility of a utility line intertie between B.C. and Alaska.”

The goal of this intertie, says the Alaska Energy Authority
is to “provide the energy needed for economic development in southeast
Alaska resulting in jobs for Alaskans and providing reliable, less
costly alternatives to diesel generated electricity for Alaskan

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.