Guidelines for Development Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Guidelines for Development Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Project Overview

BC Transmission Corporation and BC Hydro 3

Characteristics of Transmission Towers 7

Designing Around Power Lines 9

Power Safety and Rights-of-Way Uses 23

Glossary 29

Frequently Asked Questions 33

Sources & Acknowledgements 35


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

BC Transmission Corporation and BC Hydro

BC Transmission Corporation (BCTC) and BC Hydro: “the Utilities”

BC Transmission Corporation (BCTC) was established in 2003 as the provincial Crown corporation to focus on planning,

building, operating and maintaining a safe, reliable and cost-effective power grid. Electricity is delivered through an

interconnected system of more than 18,000 kilometres of transmission lines. This includes the management of 20,500 steel

towers, 100,000 wood poles and 287 substations.

BCTC is responsible for operating, planning and maintaining BC Hydro’s high-voltage electric transmission grid, and

BC Hydro retains ownership of the physical assets and the legal tenure for the rights-of-way. As the system asset owner,

BC Hydro acquires certain rights from landowners (including private property owners, First Nations, municipalities and the

provincial and federal Crown) to install, replace, maintain and access works related to the electrical delivery system. For the

transmission system, this is done in response to BCTC requirements. Because both utilities are involved in the management

of the right-of-way they are referred to jointly as “the Utilities”.

Lands under transmission lines and towers

(generally referred to as transmission facilities)

are usually owned by private landowners, while

the Utilities maintain specific rights governing

their use. These lands are called rights-of-way

(ROWs). The ROW agreements restrict owners’

rights to activities that do not impact public

safety, interfere with the operation of the lines,

cause a safety hazard, or interfere with the rights

granted. These agreements also usually allow

the Utilities to construct, maintain and replace

existing facilities, as well as reserve space for

future facilities.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

What is the purpose of this document?

This document aims to promote the successful development of sites crossed by ROWs and the creation of welldesigned

places. It demonstrates that a well-thought-out design approach can:

• Successfully incorporate the Utilities’ ROWs within developments

• Minimize the impact of overhead lines within a quality living environment

• Integrate the growth of BC’s transmission system and communities in an effective way through partnership with

landowners, communities and developers

ROW containing two lines of 500kV transmission towers


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

BC Transmission Corporation and BC Hydro

Who will use this document?

These guidelines are for the use of any individual interested in land

development near transmission facilities.

Property Owners

These guidelines will assist property owners seeking to maximize

use of their land along the Utilities’ ROWs by providing a set of

recommendations for appropriate land use and safety guidelines.

Local Government

These guidelines will promote awareness of the potential to

develop and improve the environmental quality of land close

to transmission ROWs, and pro vide supplementary planning

guidance on the development of ROWs. They also provide a

basis for analyzing and approving land development located

in close proximity to the Utilities’ facilities.

Transmission lines across the City of Vancouver

Developers and Designers

These guidelines will help provide clarity about the design constraints posed by transmission ROWs, along with greater

awareness of the opportunities to improve the environment and therefore the value of the development through good



This guide is a useful resource for communities planning for growth, because it provides guidelines for the successful

development of land close to high voltage overhead lines and within transmission ROWs.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

BCTC’s transmission system crosses over 75,000 hectares

of land and consists of approximately 18,000 kilometres of

transmission lines, 20,500 steel towers, 100,000 wood poles

and 287 substations.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Characteristics of Transmission Towers

Characteristics of Transmission Towers

Transmission towers and lines they support are the most visible aspect of the Utilities’ infrastructure on the landscape. BCTC

manages a wide variety of towers and lines that deliver electricity across the province. Three common types of towers are

shown below.

138 kV Wishbone Woodpole Structure

230 kV Double Circuit

Aesthetic Steel Pole Structure

500 kV Steel Lattice Structure


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

With effective planning and design,

transmission corridors can benefit landowners

and create better, more aesthetically pleasing communities.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Designing Around Power Lines

Designing Around Power Lines

Landowners and developers often see proximity to

overhead transmission lines and ROWs as a factor that may

be detrimental to property values. However, with effective

planning and design, transmission corridors can benefit

landowners and create better, more aesthetically pleasing


The guidelines are meant to assist designers seeking to develop

an integrated design solution to sites crossed by ROWs. When

planning and designing residential, commercial or industrial

activities around ROWs, there are many elements to consider.

It is important to conduct a thorough survey of the site and the

surrounding area with a detailed analysis of the transmission

towers and poles within view of the site before beginning

design. In addition, it is useful to know the rights and

responsibilities of the property owner, as they may be different

for each property.

• A ROW on private property creates

opportunities for individual property owners

to enjoy larger lot sizes with the potential for

large gardens and outdoor spaces

• The use of public ROW corridors for public

amenities such as walking trails, playing

fields and bicycle paths contributes to

attractive communities

• This can increase neighbourhood appeal and

property values

What about Underground Transmission Lines?

Placing transmission lines underground is an alternative to overhead lines, and is considered on a case-by-case basis.

However, undergrounding is an expensive alternative, costing between 10 and 40 times more than overhead towers and

lines. The cost to underground existing lines is the responsibility of the landowner or developer, not BCTC or BC Hydro.

Using the ROW as a public walking path


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC


The topography of a development site is an

important design consideration as it can affect the

visual perception of transmission facilities.

Where towers are set in an elevated position and

are viewed from lower ground, the scale and visual

impact of the towers is emphasized. Conversely,

where towers are viewed from an elevated position

the visual impact is reduced.

Towers set across the brow of a hill will be silhouetted

against the sky and will appear more prominent than

towers set in a similarly elevated position but with

rising land or development behind them. Even subtle

level changes across a development site can be of

great importance in this respect. If planning changes

in elevation within the ROW the Utilities must be

contacted as any reduction in the clearance between

the conductor and ground can create a potential

safety risk.

By taking topography into account, the visual effect

of power lines can be mitigated.

Towers are more prominent when placed against the skyline, as in the diagram to the left.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Designing Around Power Lines


The density of development can play a key role in screening views of the transmission facilities. By placing non-residential

buildings nearest to the transmission facilities, views of the line are screened from most public and residential areas.

Higher density residential buildings close to transmission facilities may create a negative perception to the residents. The

lines may appear closer from the upper floors of a multi-storey building.

It is important to create a harmony between density, align ment, orientation and landscaping in

order to create an aesthetically appealing development.

Alignment & Orientation

When developing new subdivisions and communities, varying the alignment of streets and paths can reduce the

number of views of transmission towers, minimizing their impact and reducing the impression of a linear corridor.

Buildings should be oriented to minimize direct views of towers from residences. This can result in some developments

facing the overhead power lines, rather than the towers. The use of a ‘rectangular’ building block form, oriented

perpendicular or at an angle to the lines, offers the opportunity to minimize direct views towards the transmission facilities,

thereby reducing the visual impact from streets, buildings and gardens. This orientation is best suited for high- and

medium-density developments, usually in the form of apartments and townhomes.

Orienting building blocks parallel to the transmission route could increase the numbers of homes with views of the line

and for higher voltage lines may cause problems with induced currents.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Alignment & Orientation

Buildings that are not square in form provide the opportunity

to be oriented in many ways, avoiding direct views along the

transmission route.

Orienting building blocks parallel to the transmission route

could increase the numbers of homes with views of the line.

Aligning homes between towers, as opposed to against towers along transmission corridors

helps to reduce the visual impact of tower lines.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Designing Around Power Lines

Alignment & Orientation

Developments adjacent to ROWs can also be left open ended, with the resultant space

used to create public gardens, squares or parking lots.

The orientation of homes parallel to the ROW does

little to minimize the visual impact of the lines from

inside the homes, as in the first diagram.

Locating cul-de-sacs on the edges of the right-of- way

and between towers minimizes the visual

impact of the towers and lines from each single family

dwelling, as in the second diagram.





Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Non-linear alignment of streets and roads provides opportunities to

minimize the view of power lines from buildings.

Varying the lot angles and placement of buildings can greatly reduce the visual impacts of transmission lines.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Designing Around Power Lines

Alignment & Orientation

By curving streets and paths, even with relatively small curves, you can significantly reduce the visual impact of towers.

Views facing towards transmission lines can be oriented some distance from the towers, and can also be framed by new

street scenes and public open spaces, particularly where changes in topography occur.

The arrangement of buildings, boundaries, fences, paths and landscaping in parallel with the transmission route over long

distances will tend to highlight the presence of overhead power lines and the linear nature of the route and will make them

more obtrusive.(Parallel structures to the ROW can also create induced currents). However, where one or more of these

elements is varied and is not parallel, the linearity of the transmission route and its overall prominence can be reduced.

Curved paths should also be angled to avoid ending visually at a tower, as below. This helps to reduce the visual impact of

transmission towers.

Left A street with an end point towards

a transmission tower gives prominence

to the tower.

Right By altering the street pattern, the

visual effect of the tower is minimized.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC


Varying the distance of development from transmission facilities is an important design tool. Buildings are not permitted

within the ROW. Adjacent buildings should be kept, as a minimum, at the edge of the ROW, and set back to allow uses not

otherwise permitted to take place within the ROW (e.g. inground swimming pools, greenhouses, garages, etc)

Placing the principal building of a development centrally within a lot, or even set back from the ROW, creates multiple

opportunities for the landowner with fewer restrictions. In a residential development, this creates space for both front and

rear yards. In commercial settings, the area of the lot within the ROW may be used for parking and other amenities.

Setting back residential lots from the ROW reduces the visual impact.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Designing Around Power Lines

Landscaping & Screening

Landscaping is one of the most effective methods to diffuse

the effects of transmission facilities, while transforming the

space within and adjacent to the ROW into an aesthetically

pleasing amenity to homeowners. Screening can enhance the

quality and intimacy of the immediate setting by creating the

perception that towers have receded into the distance.

Consideration should therefore be given to the use of

screening in layers with varying heights to match site

circumstances. Mature trees planted along streets can

effectively screen views and enhance the residential

environment. Layers of planting create a series of silhouettes

into the distance, creating depth in the field of vision that

helps to reduce the visual impact of the transmission facilities.

In this way, views of towers can be effectively screened

without the need for continuous belts of planting. Views of

towers can be obscured for much of the year in areas where

the branches of mature trees arch over the street.

Appropriate low growing vegetation can be located within

the ROW, while larger species can be planted near the edge

of the ROW. At the edge of the ROW, the species must be

planted far enough from the transmission facilities as not to

pose a threat to the facilities (swaying into the wires, etc).

Street planting can be ‘retro-fitted’ to existing

environments to soften the visual impact of towers

and overhead power lines.

Within the ROW, trees and shrubs generally cannot exceed

3 metres in height at maturity. The use of the ROW for

planting and gardening provides a valuable amenity to

individual landowners or communities, who may use the

ROW as a shared garden. The Utilities would need to be

consulted for such uses of the ROW.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Left In this image, the visual impact of power lines

is very strong, as little attention has been paid to

varied orientation or the use of landscaping to ‘hide’

the towers.

Right This image illustrates how screening and

landscaping can diminish the visual impact of power lines

in residential neighbourhoods.

A combination of curved streets,

rectangular building patterns,

landscaping and screening can

be seen in the example to the

left, while the ROW underneath

the lines has been developed into

community amenities.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Designing Around Power Lines

Community Amenities Within the ROW

While use of the ROW has some restrictions (as per the statutory right-of-way agreements) the presence of long corridors

of clear, open space provides the opportunity to develop significant private and community amenities. In order to best use

this space, it is important to consider design ideas such as:

• Breaking the transmission route into cells using roads, bridges, etc.

• Developing such cells for uses such as garden squares and parking lots

• Creating meandering paths and varied planting

• Providing a mix of activities beneath and adjacent to the overhead power line

Some examples of compatible uses within the ROW are

outlined in the next section. The process that the Utilities

use to review compatible ROW uses is outlined in a separate

document called Partners in Use, Rights-of-Way Guidelines for

Compatible Uses. Developers should keep in mind that such

uses are site specific and would require prior approval from the

Utilities, on a case-by-case basis.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Playing Fields & Golf Courses

Recreational playing fields may be located within the ROW, subject to the nature of the activity, the layout of playing fields

and the level of supervision. The location and type of lighting used for playing fields within the ROW needs to be reviewed

by the Utilities.

Playing fields located within the ROW.

Left Golf course within the ROW with lines

buried underground.

Right Golf course with overhead lines within the ROW.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Designing Around Power Lines

Nature and Conservation

The retention or creation of nature conservation areas may be particularly suitable where public access to the area is

restricted or prevented. The trails shown follow McLellan Creek and connect to HiKnoll Park nature conservation area in

Sur rey and Brydon Lagoon in the City of Langley. These areas form a part of the Cloverdale and Serpentine Greenway.

Circulation Paths

Active recreation paths, roads, cycle paths and walkways may be

successfully accommodated beneath high voltage overhead lines.

Design efforts should seek to orient the path or trail alignment at least

six metres away from the Utilities’ facilities.

Christmas Tree Farms, Allotments

and Community Orchards

The use of land for allotments and community orchards may be

appropriate subject to maintaining safety, security and operational

clearances which are determined by the Utilities on a site-specific

basis, depending on transmission line voltage and tree species.

Serpentine Greenway, Surrey, BC


Secondary parking may be accommodated beneath high voltage

overhead lines subject to safety, security and operational concerns being

met. The Utilities need to review any proposed parking area on a sitespecific

basis to ensure safety clearances from vehicles to conductors.

Private Gardens

ROWs on BC Hydro and Crown land adjacent to private land may be

licenced to extend private yards, enabling landowners to develop

gardens and planting patches.

Fish habitat, HiKnoll Park, Surrey, BC


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

CASE STUDY: Plateau Estates, Abbotsford

Plateau Estates in Abbotsford was developed

through a bare land strata agreement. Located alongside

a ROW corridor, the development has created a desirable

residential setting, where the effective placement of houses

and landscaping have mitigated impacts of transmission lines

and structures. The lands within the ROW have been developed

to create a community asset through effective landscaping and

land uses which are compatible with the transmis sion system

and beneficial to the residents.

Careful consideration was given to topography, with homes

being developed at the highest points of the site, wherever

possible. This serves to reduce the prominence of the

transmission facilities and creates an aesthetically pleasing

green space which falls away from the residences to wards the

transmission lines.

The ROW, rather than being divided amongst in dividual homeowners, has been developed as an amenity for

residents of the community. As such, it provides space for open activities, picnics, sports and walking trails. There is

also a tennis court at the edge of the ROW.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Public Safety and Rights-of-Way Uses

Public Safety and Rights-of-Way Uses

When developing and designing land located close to transmission lines and

within ROWs, there are a number of factors related to public safety, facility

security, maintenance and design to consider.

Public Safety

Contact, or near contact, with high voltage equipment is extremely

dangerous and must be avoided. Objects that approach overhead electricity

conductors too closely can cause fatal or severe shocks and burns. In order

to prevent such incidents, minimum safety clearances for all overhead

power lines are prescribed, which must be maintained between conductors

and the ground, trees, buildings, equipment and any other structures, such

as street lighting.

Public safety plays an

important role when

designing around

transmission infrastructure.

It affects not only the general

public, but the Utilities

maintenance staff as well.

The clearance required will depend on the operating voltage of the line, its

construction and design, the topography of the location over which the line

passes and the type of development proposed. The Utilities’ pre-approval is

required when unloading, stacking or moving material underneath conductors

and care should be taken in the construction of buildings or other structures in

the vicinity of an overhead power line.

Generally, buildings located outside of the ROW are safe from any

of these concerns. However, buildings located at or near the edge

of the ROW may face certain impacts from electric field induction.

These impacts can be mitigated if they are better understood at the

time of the land development planning stage.

Nothing should ever be attached to a transmission tower or pole,

whether temporary or permanent. Storage or use of hazardous

materials is not permitted in or near ROWs. This includes anything

flammable, explosive, or corrosive.

Developers and municipalities need to consider emergency access

in the design of their developments where they plan to be adjacent to the right-of-way.

Sufficient access and maneuvering room for emergency equipment and trucks off the ROW, particularly for firefighting

must be maintained. If a development adjacent to a ROW catches fire, firefighters need room to park vehicles, maneuver

ladders, and shoot water from proper angles without putting themselves at risk from the transmission system.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Guidelines for Compatible Uses

The Utilities have classified potential ROW uses as described below, to assist landowners and developers in designing for

ROWs. See the Compatible Use Guidelines for further details:

No significant impact

The following uses are considered to have “no

significant impact” and do not require specific

permission from the Utilities:

• General landscaping and residential gardens,

provided there is no change in grade and

vegetation has a maximum height of 3 metres

at maturity

• Grazing of animals and agricultural uses (without

mechanical irrigation systems or metallic fences)

Minor impact

The following uses are considered to have “minor

impact” and should be reviewed by the Utilities prior

to development:

• Tree farms and other multi-year crops

• Hiking and equestrian trails, paths and walkways

• Small garden sheds and storage of nonhazardous


• Non-metallic water and sewer lines, septic fields

Major impact

The following uses are considered to be “major impact” and must be coordinated by the utilities:

• Driveways, access roads, utility crossings

• Parking, playgrounds, tennis courts, golf courses, cemeteries, swimming pools

• Gravel pits, quarries, fill, berms, and retaining walls

• Any activity involving elevation or grade changes more than 0.5 metres

• Sewage disposal fields, detention/retention ponds, watercourse relocation

• Portions of non-habitable buildings (e.g. garages, carports)

• Highways, roads and major pipelines parallel to and/or within the ROW

• Street lamps and other lighting standards

• Any activity involving any type of mechanized equipment (e.g. excavators, bulldozers, irrigation systems)

Refueling within the ROW is not recommended, and in many ROW agreements it is specifically prohibited. In the interest of

safety, users should contact the Utilities before proceeding with these kinds of activities.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Public Safety and Rights-of-Way Uses

Maintenance Needs

When transmission lines are built, the poles or towers are placed on sites which

have clear routes to allow maintenance crews to gain access to them. Changing

land use and the expansion of subdivisions cannot be allowed to impede access

to poles or towers.

When planning uses within the ROW, it is important to consider maintenance

requirements. Transmission lines and towers require a minimum of six metres of

clearance on all sides to ensure safe access for maintenance workers.

1. Induced Currents

Landowners and developers should be aware of the potential for nuisance and startle shocks (caused by induced voltage)

that can occur when someone comes in contact with a large conductive object (eg. a vehicle, building or even fencing)

located on or off the right-of-way. These shocks are known as ‘nuisance’ or ‘startle’ since they will not physically hurt

someone, but will be noticed by some people and provoke a startle reaction.

These touch currents occur when a grounded individual touches an ungrounded object while standing in an Electric Field

(e-field). Conductive objects when placed in an e-field attract a charge, and a person touching that object can experience

an annoying or startling shock when a person’s body provides a path to ground for the current to follow.

There are many factors which influence the likelihood of nuisance shocks and the extent that people will notice them.

These include:

• Line voltage

• Conductor to ground clearance

• Size of the vehicle or object

• Location on or off the right of way

• Atmospheric conditions

• Personal physiology

Electric fields emanate from any conductor or wire that carries voltage. Higher line voltages produce higher electric

field strengths. The closer the conductor is to the ground, the higher the field strength beneath it tends to be, and the

increased possibility of shocks.

Larger objects such as a building or a large vehicle have the capability of a larger charge and therefore the shock could be

more noticeable. Backyard metallic objects such as swings, portable grills and lawnmowers have been known to deliver

similar shocks. Ungrounded metal wire fences can also receive sufficient charges to cause nuisance shocks.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

During building construction, workers have also received shocks when installing ungrounded gutters and downspouts on

structures built close to the edge of the right-of-way. Homeowners may also experience shocks when cleaning gutters if

the gutters are not properly grounded. Call the BC Hydro provincial rights-of-way help desk (1-800-667-1517) if you need

advice or want assistance in properly grounding metal objects.

New Construction

To date, no buildings exceeding two storeys in height have been placed immediately at the edge of a 500kV transmission

right-of-way in British Columbia. Such buildings may be subject to electric fields because of their height, length, orientation

and their proximity to the transmission lines. Accordingly, owners or developers should retain a professional consultant

with expertise in calculating electric and magnetic fields, mitigation strategies, and safety issues during construction and

after occupancy. Consultants can advise on the project design and anticipated construction methods.

It’s important to remember that even startle shocks could pose safety issues to construction workers or residents,

depending on the activities in which they are engaged.

Left A low rise residential structure

located at the boundary of the ROW

meets the requirements.

Right A medium rise residential

structure located on the boundary of

the ROW meets the requirements, but

can create induced currents, as the

upper levels of the building are close

to the Utilities’ facilities.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Public Safety and Rights-of-Way Uses

Based on past experience, we have found it is important to:

1. Maintain the perpendicular orientation of the buildings with respect to the 500 kV conductors.

2. Bring the electric service to the buildings in from a dedicated distribution transformer with individual feeds kept

perpendicular to the 500 kV conductors (metallic underground services should also be oriented perpendicularly).

3. In all construction projects near 500 kV transmission lines, engage a consultant knowledgeable in the calculation

and management of electric fields.

Top A tall building located at the boundary of the

ROW meets the requirements, however it poses a high

risk of induction as the upper levels of the building are

closer to the Utilities’ facilities.

Bottom An alternative approach to high rise

development that allows for increased density but

mitigates induced currents.

Fences and Metal Clothes Lines

In general, fences can be constructed near transmission lines. However, the following safety precautions should be observed.

• Metal fences should not be attached to any tower or conductive pole

• Metal fences should not be constructed within five metres of any tower or conductive pole of a transmission line

• Metallic objects such as metal clothes lines should not be connected to poles or towers. If lightning or an

electrical flash hits a pole or tower, momentary high currents and voltages could create a risk of electrocution

• Metal fences running parallel to the transmission facilities may need to be grounded at intervals to reduce

nuisance shocks


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

2. Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF)

Power frequency (also referred to as extremely low frequency

or ELF) electric and magnetic fields are present everywhere

that electricity flows. All electric wires, and the electrical devices

they supply, such as light bulbs, households appliances, and

computers, are sources of electric and magnetic fields. Scientists

have been researching EMF and possible health effects for more

than 30 years and this extensive research has not established a

link between health risks and EMF. Leading health authorities

say there is no reason to be concerned about exposure levels

in typical Canadian homes and workplaces, regardless of the

proximity to power lines.

Where can I find more

information on EMF?

Refer to the BCTC information sheet on

EMF or search EMF at:


We realize that, regardless of the view of health authorities,

some individuals have a different view. If people have any

concerns we encourage them to visit the BCTC website and

investigate the issue.

3. Noise from Lines

In calm and dry conditions transmission lines normally make little noise, however, some typical sounds can include:

• a buzzing sound from damp or salt-polluted insulators

• a humming noise from conductors and/or tower steelwork, especially during very windy periods

4. Radio and Television Interference

Radio and television interference can be the result of various electrical appliances or objects. BC Hydro has a guide

to identifying the sources of such interference, and homeowners should contact the BC Hydro provincial rights-ofway

help desk (1-800-667-1517) if they are having reception problems.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC




An act in law whereby two or more persons declare their consent as to any act or thing to be done.


Generally refers to an underground “cable” suitably insulated, used for transmitting electricity.

Compatible Use (Secondary Use)

Any use in a right-of-way other than a utility’s use for the transmission of electricity which does not compromise the utility’s

criteria for safety of people, security for its works, and flexibility for maintenance and future works. Examples of compatible

use are golf courses, agricultural grazing land, and Christmas tree farms.


Wire strung between poles or towers, used for transmitting electricity.

Crown Land

Property owned or under the jurisdiction of the Provincial or Federal Government.


Power lines less than 60 kV.


An interest in land owned by another that entitles its holder to a specific limited use or enjoyment. A statutory right of way

is a form of easement.

Electrostatic Induction

A voltage / current induced in an object due to the electric field surrounding an energized powerline.

Electric and Magnetic Fields

Two distinct forms of energy. Electric fields are created by the presence of voltage in a conductor. They exist around

energized wires, even if equipment is turned off. Magnetic fields are created by current (that is the flow of electrons)

through a conductor. They exist only when equipment is turned on and current is flowing. In short, electric fields are

associated with voltage and magnetic fields are associated with the amount of current being used.


A fixture, such as a pool, a fence, a building or a porch, which is located within a right-of-way that does not have a utility’s

consent or right to be there.

Fee Simple

Full ownership of land subject to existing charges on the registered deed. The owner assumes all relevant obligations (e.g.

payment of taxes, public liability, etc.)


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Glossary (continued)

Field Strength

The strength of an electric field, measured in volts per metre or of a magnetic field measured in gauss.

Hazard Trees

A tree which is defective, has a “target” (where it is likely to hit or damage a person or object when it fails), and has the

imminent potential to fail.

Legal Survey

Requires a field survey and preparation of a plan by a registered certified British Columbia Land Surveyor.


With regards to an electric power system, the degree to which the performance of the elements of that system results in

power being delivered to consumers within accepted standards and in the amount desired. A measure of the continuity of

electric service over a long period of time.

Right-of-Way (ROW)

A term to describe limited interests in land which provide the right to utilize the property, for specific purpose(s), without

having full ownership. Limited interests are defined by statutory rights-of-way, lease, licence, permit or letter agreements.

Rights for Access

Construction or Permanent Access

A right granted to enter onto lands outside the statutory right-of-way for the purpose of construction or maintenance

of a utility’s works. Generally, access to towers, poles, guys, etc. is obtained along the statutory right-of-way. However,

in situations where an alternate access is required across vacant Crown land or private property, temporary during

construction and permanent rights for maintenance are obtained through a separate agreement.

System Security

The ability of the bulk power electric system to withstand sudden disturbances such as electric short circuits or

unanticipated loss of system components.

Statutory Right-of-Way

A right belonging to a party to pass over the land of another. A statutory right-of-way is a right granted by statute to

negotiate for easements without a dominant tenement. A limited interest in land is acquired which is registered in the Land

Title Office against the fee simple title. The limited interests obtained through this form of agreement are defined within

the right-of-way document. The owner of the property retains the rights and benefits or ownership. Statutory rights-ofway

are used by utility companies, government agencies, Crown corporations and local governments for the purposes of

constructing linear works such as highways, railways, pipelines, transmission lines, water and sewer lines.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC


Glossary (continued)

Step & Touch Potential

A potential difference or voltage gradient set up in the ground as a result of a fault current. Persons walking would

experience a voltage between their feet (step potential). Persons touching a grounded object with their hands would

experience a voltage between their hands and feet (touch potential).


Transforming or switching stations to control the voltage and direction of electricity. They reduce the voltage to lower

levels for distribution. Switching controls the direction of electricity and ensures fault protection.


Circuits categorized 60 kV and above are referred to as transmission (e.g. 138 kV, 230 kV, 360 kV, 500 kV). Circuits operating at

60 kV are referred to as “subtransmission” and may supply bulk customers directly. In some areas of BC, the sub-transmission

voltage is at 138 kV. 230 kV is the backbone of BC Hydro’s urban transmission system. Overhead lines are usually built on

steel towers or steel poles, although wood poles are common in rural areas. 500 kV is the major bulk transmission voltage.

Overhead lines for 500 kV are only built on steel towers.


When distribution circuits (

For additional information,

please visit our website at


BC Hydro at


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions and Further Info

Where can I see a copy of my right-of-way Agreement?

Property owners wishing to see a copy of their statutory right-of-way document should contact their local Land Title Office.

More information can be found at:

Where can I find more information about compatible uses for rights-of-way?

You can find more information about ways to implement compatible uses in the document Partners in Use, Rights-of-Way

Guidelines For Compatible Uses, available from

Who can I consult about developing near a right-of-way or implementing a compatible use?

To learn more about developing near a right-of-way or to consult the Utilities about applying for compatible use, please

contact the BC Hydro Properties Division at:

BC Hydro Properties Division

12th Floor, 333 Dunsmuir St.

Vancouver, BC V6B 5R3

Phone: 1.800.667.1517 or in the Lower Mainland 604.623.3637

Fax: 604.623.3988


For additional information, please visit our website at or BC Hydro at


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

BCTC graciously acknowledges the assistance of a number of individuals

and sources that have contributed to this document.


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Sources & Acknowledgements


Appleyard, Donald, The View from the Road, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1964

BC Hydro and BC Transmission Corporation, Rights of Way Guidelines for Compatible Use

Jacobs, Allan B, Great Streets, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993

National Grid UK, Sense of Place: Development for Guidelines Near High Voltage Lines

Transpower New Zealand, Landowners Booklet: General information for landowners and those living, working or playing

near transmission lines

Unwin, Raymond, Town Planning in Practice: An Introduction to the Art of Designing Cities and Suburbs, Princeton

Architectural Press, New York, 1994.


BCTC wishes to acknowledge the assistance of a number of individuals that have contributed to this document.

Robert Dykstra, Area Planning & Development, City of Surrey

Ron Hintsche, Senior Planner/Approving Officer, City of Abbotsford

David Walsh, Team Lead – ROW Control, BC Hydro

Mike Prettejohn, Acting Manager, Property Rights Services, BC Hydro

Kim Proudlove, Property Representative, Property Rights Services, BC Hydro

Laura Lee Richard, MCIP, Editor, Planning West, Planning Institute of British Columbia

Hector Pearson, National Grid Transco, UK

National Grid, UK, Sense of Place: Design guidelines for development near high voltage overhead lines.

(the inspiration for these guidelines)

The principal authors of this document are:

Gary Holisko, M.A., MCIP, Manager Land Management Programs, BCTC

Farhad Mawani, consultant

Josh Bassett, consultant


Guidelines for Development

Near Overhead Transmission Lines in BC

Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper

BCTC 07-58

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