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Making Burlington Beach Strip Hydro Towers Disappear A Tall Order

Posted: June 18, 2013

Beach TowersRidding Burlington’s beach strip of skyline-dominating hydro towers would cost local taxpayers up to $36 million, according to early talks between utility and city officials.

And that estimate doesn’t include the price tag of powering down Hamilton’s side of the ship canal, either — a cost previously pegged at more than $70 million.

Burlington officials recently met with Hydro One for an “informal analysis” of the cost to move, bury or beautify the wall of 60-metre-tall transmission towers between downtown and the ship canal, said Councillor Rick Craven.

Options range from $8 million to swap out some “oil derrick-type” towers with less obtrusive poles, to $36 million to bury the 230,000-volt transmission lines, said Craven, calling those numbers “ballpark” figures.

“They repeatedly pointed out the city would be paying the costs, if this were ever to go ahead,” said Craven, who expects council to request a formal Hydro One report. “Everyone wants to see them removed but the question is how, and how much.”

There are 30 lakeshore power towers between downtown Burlington and Van Wagner’s Beach, each about the size of the Royal Connaught Hotel.

So far, Burlington has only asked about its side of the ship canal.

“Once you get past the canal, that’s Hamilton’s responsibility,” said Craven with a laugh.

Any plan to reroute the corridor would affect the “visual pollution” on Hamilton’s beach strip, too, said Councillor Chad Collins, who wants to be involved in any formal study.

Collins said he asked Hydro One to estimate a relocation cost for the Hamilton side in 2009 and was told “at least $70 million.”

Spokesperson Nancy Shaddick said Hydro One won’t comment on informal conversations.

But an email to Collins from the utility said burying power lines along the lake would be “difficult if not impossible” due to erosion and environmental concerns.

Another option is to reroute the towers away from the lake and along the harbour side of the beach strip, closer to the treatment plant and port authority lands. But Hydro One told Collins the two cities would have to find a new right-of-way between Burlington and Van Wagner’s Road, where the towers veer away from the lake.

If the beachfront towers do come down, area property values would go up “very rapidly,” said Hamilton real estate agent Conrad Zurini.

“Conservatively speaking, I’d guess 15 or 20 per cent right off the bat,” said Zurini, who cautioned the area is still overshadowed by the skyway and lacks amenities. “Right now, a significant number of people will simply refuse to buy (near a hydro tower).”

As it stands, available Beach Boulevard homes along the power corridor range from a townhome for $280,000 to a three-bedroom “luxury waterfront bungalow” for $880,000.

A hydro tower shuffle could also help the environment, said Collins, because machinery used for maintenance routinely damages sensitive beach ecology.

It might even prevent the odd lawsuit — Burlington settled with a woman who sued in 2007 after a power-line-zapped cormorant fell on her head in Beachway Park.

Craven said a clear skyline at Burlington’s beach is likely a couple of decades away. “But part of our job is to cast our eyes 20, 25 years down the road and ask where we’re going.”

Courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator