BC Hydro compensation ‘disappointing’

Utility will offer up to $1,000 per household after June 30 power surge.

BC Hydro will offer some financial compensation to residents of Brisco and Spillimacheen affected by a June 30 power surge, but one community leader says the utility’s offer likely won’t be of much help.

According to a report and letter sent to homeowners who filed claims with BC Hydro, the company will provide up to $1,000 per customer to cover home insurance deductibles or, for those with no insurance, an amount equal to what’s being offered to those with coverage.

But area recreation director Warner Einer says the amount isn’t high enough to do much good.

“I think that the offer could have been a little bit better,” he said.

“What they’re offering here is a maximum of $1,000, which includes your deductible. Most people around here’s deductible is either $1,000 or more, so really it boils back down to you having to go through your insurance company for claims. Which then increases your insurance policy rates.”

According to BC Hydro’s report, the power surge was caused when a tree hit power lines. Homeowners nearest the lines reported damage to household appliances including televisions, ovens, freezers and hot tubs. At least one homeowner’s wiring was also hit by the surge.

While initial estimates put the number of households affected at around 100, BC Hydro now says the surge may have caused damage on as many as 200 properties.

The tree — a 16-metre aspen — was on private property, outside the utility’s right-of-way, and is described as being “green and in full foliage.”

“The tree was not flagged for removal during any BC Hydro vegetation inspections, as no outward signs of decay were visible,” the report adds. However, when examined, Hydro investigators found “extensive rotting” in its root system.

Though compensation is being offered, the utility isn’t admitting liability in the power surge.

“Our right-of-way was maintained to standard and there were no indications that the tree that caused the outage was in distress,” the report states, adding the incident was “caused by forces of nature beyond the control of BC Hydro.”

However, for those affected by the surge, the final outcome is less than ideal, Einer said.

“I didn’t do a complete census, but I’m getting somewhat the same input from everybody. It’s disappointing.”

While the community has discussed taking action as a group in past, at this stage anyone displeased with the outcome has to act individually.

“They’re individual claims, so if you have a claim number from BC Hydro you can proceed though BC Hydro and your insurance company, whether you have insurance for artificially generated power or not,” Einer explains.

Those looking to appeal the decision must file individual claims with the BC Utilities Commission, a step Einer expects “a percentage” of residents will take.