Power outage causes grief for business owners

Power Line 02Local business owners and community members are frustrated after Sun Peaks experienced a five hour power outage during a busy weekend in July.

It was the second major outage in as many months, and the seventh village-wide outage since April 2014.

The most recent power outage occurred at 9:46 a.m. on Saturday, July 18 and lasted until nearly 2:30 p.m. that afternoon. The Sun Peaks Uncovered: Flashback Weekend was also taking place during the day, causing several events to be pushed back into the afternoon.

Christopher Nicolson, president of Tourism Sun Peaks, said the power outages were “absolutely an issue.”

“A fallen tree taking out a power line isn’t unusual, but it does have a huge impact,” Nicolson said. “The village is essentially losing a whole day of revenue.”

“From an event standpoint, it put us into scramble mode as we had to locate generators and readjust times. We’re thankful to Sun Peaks Resort LLP for helping us to come up with solutions until the power was restored,” Nicolson said.

Ryan Schmalz, owner of Mountain High Pizza and the Sun Peaks Fun Factor arcade, said the constant outages were “brutal.”

“I cringe whenever there are strong winds. A power outage completely kills business up here.  It’s devastating as a business owner,” he said.

“It’s been an ongoing issue for the 17 years I’ve been up here, and would have cost businesses up here tens of thousands of dollars over the years.”

Schmalz said it was “amazing” that something hadn’t yet been done about the issue.

“It really amazes me that we put so much into investing into Sun Peaks and we want guests to have a great experience, but we still haven’t solved our power supply. The ski hill industry is so competitive, and we might never get those guests back if they have a bad experience.”

Mayor Al Raine said he recognized the problem.

“It affects everybody’s business. It’s bad news.”

Raine said he’d noticed many trees between Sun Peaks and Heffley Creek that were likely to come down in the next storm.

“I would have spotted 30 or 40 trees. There’s always a risk that a tree could come down in a storm, but there are problem trees that are leaning on a big angle right above the power lines. They should be taken out.”

The suggestion of running another power line between Sun Peaks and Chase had been raised, but Raine said the cost of such an operation would make it unlikely.

“It would be in the millions and millions of dollars. I don’t think B.C. Hydro has any plans to do such a thing.”

According to figures provided by B.C. Hydro, Sun Peaks loses power on average once every two months, with the average power outage lasting for 2.5 hours.

The majority of power outages (56 per cent) are caused by trees falling on the power line. Motor vehicle accidents on the road between Heffley Creek and Sun Peaks are responsible for 25 per cent of outages, and faults in the transmission system make up the remaining 19 per cent.

B.C. Hydro said they regularly pruned and removed trees that could cause damage or contact power lines, and the next planned vegetation work would take place between September and November.