SaskPower Right of Ways

Res #: 37-03A
Number: 37
Year: 2003
Midterm: No
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: SaskPower

Resolution No. 37-03A

WHEREAS, numerous fires costing thousands of dollars occur every year in Saskatchewan as a result of trees making contact with power lines; and

WHEREAS, current regulations only allow SaskPower to obtain a 30 foot right of way outside the boundaries of provincial forests; and

WHEREAS, SaskPower's position is that when a tree which originates outside this 30 foot width falls and makes contact with a power line causing fire that this is not the corporation's responsibility; and

WHEREAS, the costs associated with these fires include the cost to SaskPower to replace and repair the lines, the costs to Saskatchewan Environment to bring in helicopters and airplanes to fight fires threatening provincial forests, the cost to insurance companies, the cost to the rural municipal tax payers, private individuals and businesses who are left with the responsibility of payments to local fire departments which can easily run into thousands of dollars per occurrence;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that SARM lobby SaskPower to change their current regulations to increase their right of way within burning permit areas to equal the right of ways within provincial forests.

Response from the Honourable Maynard Sonntag, Minister of Crown Investments Corportation:

This resolution in part notes, "…SaskPower to change their current regulations to increase their right of way within burning permit areas to equal the right-of-ways within provincial forests." SaskPower has no prescribed or regulated easement width (right-of-way) corresponding to any particular lands through which line construction takes place.

Easement widths are determined independent of land ownership, public or private, and the policies in regard to easement widths are applied consistently throughout the province. Easements for electrical transmission lines, 72,000 volts or higher, are typically 30 – 40 metres in width. Easement widths for these lines are based on providing safe electrical clearance to an object immediately adjacent to the edge of easement, under conditions of conductor and insulator swing-out as specified in the Canadian Electrical Association (CSA) Standards. This becomes the absolute minimum easement width.

In addition to this, the easement width will vary depending on voltage, span length and type of conductor. Within provincial forests, or any treed area, it may appear that there is a wider easement than outside these areas because the clearing of the easement is more evident. However, the same basic process is followed for determining the width of the easement along the route of a transmission line regardless of it being in a provincial forest, burning permit area, or any other area.

The trimming or removal of trees has always been a very sensitive issue. SaskPower is often criticized for trimming and removing too many trees and, if an incident occurs, it is criticized because it should have done more. SaskPower is not liable for damage claims for trees contacting its line as it takes care in fulfilling obligations to service power lines and trim trees along easements. SaskPower patrols each transmission line from the ground and/or air on a regular basis to inspect the facilities and the easement area. The need to trim or remove trees is determined by personnel during these inspections and by notification from customers of a potential problem.

SaskPower typically acquires 10 metre easement widths for rural distribution lines, 25,000 volts or lower. This width is the minimum and is enough to accommodate worst-case conductor swing-out for distribution lines. Unless there are other site specific circumstances, the easement width is the same in all terrain. When a distribution line extends through a forested area, and with the permission of the landowners, SaskPower may selectively remove large trees outside the easement if those trees are deemed to create a concern. Because of the extent of the distribution system in the province, annual patrols are not conducted on these lines.

Operating staff in each district will target certain distribution lines for maintenance purposes each year, which includes the trimming and removal of trees. Additionally, staff will respond to notification from customers of a potential problem. It is unfortunate that incidences of fire that resulted from tree contact with power lines occur despite the efforts of SaskPower to mitigate them. SaskPower shares your concern for the consequences and costs associated with fires resulting from these incidental contacts.

SaskPower does its utmost to establish and maintain right-of-ways, which provide for safe operation of its facilities while balancing the public use of lands and their interest in preserving our forested areas.