Start polishing off your frozen foods now because in less than two weeks the power is going out in the Cowichan Lake district and will stay off from dawn until dusk.
On June 26, BC Hydro has scheduled an 11-hour (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) power outage for Lake Cowichan, Mesachie Lake, Youbou and Honeymoon Bay in order to perform upgrades on the transmission line that runs from Duncan to the lake communities. Power is transmitted along this line, reaching a substation before then being distributed throughout the Lake.
Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro’s spokesman for Vancouver Island, said repairs on the transmission line are long overdue.
“Unfortunately when we take an outage on that line it’s going to cause the whole community to go out. Because LC is at the end of a line there’s no loop,” he said. “Like if we did it in Ladysmith, we could isolate where we need to do the work and lessen the impact from the outage, whereas with Lake Cowichan, it’s not a circle.”
Olynyk said this operation is one of the largest he’s ever seen on Vancouver Island, and workers are being brought in from Sechelt, Surrey, Vernon, Campbell River, Courtenay, Qualicum, Port Alberni, and Duncan.
There will be 120 linemen, 30 flagging personnel, 24 double-bucket trucks, 12 large line trucks and 30 medium-duty pickup trucks working throughout the day.
According to Olynyk, crews will be working on 78 structures and power poles (which includes the replacing of nine poles), replacing 160 wooden crossarms and changing out 240 tie conductors supporting insulators. He said they are trying to do a number of other upgrades at this time in order to eliminate the need for more outages in the near future.
“We’re trying to make this outage get as much work done as possible,” he said.
He said BC Hydro will be taking this opportunity to do work on its distribution system for the Cowichan Lake region and adding eight kilometres of new power lines in Lake Cowichan that should keep the town’s downtown core powered in the future in the event of problems with the transmission line.
“It’s not a complete loop because you won’t be able to power everybody in the whole Lake Cowichan area. It’ll mostly be the downtown core that benefits from that additional work,” said Olynyk.
The power outage will come at a high price for some businesses.
Country Grocer is going to remain open all day, but doing so won’t be easy.
“We’re getting a massive generator for the day because we cannot [go without] power in 35-degree weather,” said store manager Jenn Pollner. “Normally we have a small generator that’s hooked to our system but it does not run coolers, freezers, that kind of stuff. It runs some basic lights and tills.”
Pollner said the store has procedures in place in the event of an unexpected power outage; they lock up all the freezers and if the power stays off for a certain amount of time they then begin throwing out items. She said power outages tend to happen in the winter.
“In the summer I can’t even imagine. Ice cream and all that kind of stuff is no good because it’s much warmer, and if the power’s not on also the air conditioner’s not on. So you’re not even keeping the store at a cooler temperature.”
For people who might be hungry and unable to cook at their homes, Pollner said Country Grocer will probably have a hotdog sale outside. She said the timing of the power outage is baffling.
“I can’t even believe they’re allowed to do this. It’s a huge chunk of time in a tourist destination in the first weekend of summer. It’s a huge weekend of sales for us and for our whole community,” she said. “But we’ve tried everyone we possibly could to see if they could change it and that is not coming.”
Justin Young, co-owner of The Shaker Mill Restaurant, echoed these sentiments.
“It’s f**king ridiculous,” he said. “It’s very last minute. I’m not sure why they’re doing it in the middle of summer on a freaking Sunday, but there you go.”
Young is still unsure whether or not he’ll be able to open the Shaker Mill that day. He is already going to have to rent a generator to keep enough power going to the restaurant’s freezer in order to prevent spoilage. He said the night before the outage he’s going to test the generator.
“I’m going to see how much power I can get. If I start popping breakers, I can’t open the restaurant… which is devastating. Sunday’s a busy day for us. Campers being up here, they come in for one breakfast while they’re up here, it’s often on a Sunday,” he said. “I just do not understand what the thought process was.”
Olynyk at BC Hydro emphasized the work is overdue.
“Some of the stuff has been from the ‘60s. They’re just due for repairs. A lot of them have a long life but eventually things have to be repaired, and the only way to do it is to take an outage,” he said, adding they want to make the most of it, which is why they are doing a number of repairs all at once.
“If we don’t make the repairs, there won’t be planned outages, there will be a lot of unplanned outages.”
He said the cumulative outages results of that would be a lot more than the 11 hours planned for the end of the month. He said residents should unplug any sensitive electronic equipment, just to be on the safe side.
“We apologize. We know it’s a big inconvenience to the community but unfortunately it’s something we need to do to ensure that we continue with reliability,” he said.