The Georgia Strait Crossing project took another step forward last week when the project developer filed its regulatory applications with both the National Energy Board (NEB) in Canada and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the United States.
The project involves a natural gas pipeline that would run from Sumas to Cherry Point, both in Washington State, then under Georgia Strait and surfacing on Vancouver Island in the Province of British Columbia. The gas pipeline would be tied into existing gas pipelines at both ends. The project is a joint venture of British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, a government owned utility, and the Williams Corporation, a private company which owns and operates numerous gas pipelines in the United States.
Regulatory approval is required from both the NEB and FERC because the pipeline will cross the International Boundary. The developer estimates a period of approximately one year to obtain the regulatory approvals, with construction commencing in the Fall of 2002 if the approvals are obtained as projected. The pipeline would be in service by late fall of 2003.
Within Canada, the project will boost the supply of natural gas to Vancouver Island where B.C. Hydro proposes the construction of a natural gas fired electricity generating plant. Additional sources of electrical energy are needed to replace several submarine cables nearing the end of their useful lives. Those cables currently supply much of the electrical energy requirements for the Island.
Critics of the project have raised a number of environmental concerns. However, the recent sharp increase in natural gas prices and a construction cost estimate which has ballooned from $180 million to $260 million may also have affected the economics of the project. In a report published April 26th in the Victoria Times-Colonist, Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk was reported to have said that the higher costs are due to "environmental mitigation" and "challenging construction conditions". However, Hydro would not proceed if the project wasn't viable.
Olynyk also confirmed that the regulatory applications had been delayed by several months due to negotiations with Williams over a joint business plan.