Hydro aims to fund two Vancouver schools in exchange for underground substation


School trustees in Vancouver have approved a plan that would see BC Hydro finance the construction of a new elementary school in the city’s West End and replace another, in exchange for building a substation under school board property.

The substation would be located under Lord Roberts Annex, and a release from the school board says BC Hydro has agreed to buy the rights to ground under the school “at fair market value” while the school district retains the rights to the property above ground.

The board says funds from the sale of the below-ground parcel would be used to build a new elementary school in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood by 2023, and students from Lord Roberts Annex would move there while the annex is torn down and rebuilt over the substation.

It says the Crown utility needs a new substation in the West End to ensure residents continue to receive reliable power as the electricity system in downtown Vancouver is aging.

Parents told public hearings leading up to the decision that they were concerned about possible health issues linked to children studying and playing close to an electromagnetic field.

Two trustees opposed the plan but Lisa Dominato and Fraser Ballantyne were among the six who voted to proceed with it and issued a news release saying an independent review by Vancouver Coastal Health did not identify any significant health and safety issues.

“There is a critical need for another school in the West End and this agreement will enable us to move ahead with this project sooner so we can meet the educational needs of current and future families,” Dominato says in the release.