Mayor on Montreal’s West Island renews call to have power lines buried

“Very large tree canopy,” said Georges Bourelle, mayor of Beaconsfield, about why he’s renewing the call to have Hydro-Quebec bury power lines a year after an ice storm knocked out power to over a million Quebecers. Gareth Madoc-Jones reports.

By Gareth Madoc-Jones

It’s been nearly one year since the 2023 Quebec ice storm that left over a million households without power for several days.

Beaconsfield mayor Georges Bourelle is asking Hydro-Quebec to have the power lines buried so that when trees or branches fall, they won’t land on power lines, thus cutting electricity from homes and businesses.

Bourelle said that as far as he is concerned, there is only one way to improve this situation, given that with climate change there could be violent storms and high winds in the coming years.

“In Beaconsfield where we have a lot of trees, in West Island where there are a lot of trees, but certainly in Beaconsfield where we have a large, very large tree canopy, there’s only one thing to do and that’s burying the lines,” he said. “That is the way that we can provide a constant hydro service without power outage.”

Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle
Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle poses for a photo in Beaconsfield, April 1 2024. (Gareth Madoc-Jones, CityNews Image)

In a written statement to CityNews Montreal, Hydro Quebec said they have plans to bury some power lines in the province.

Currently, the power company has an agreement with the city of Montreal to bury 4.5 kilometres of power lines each year, but there is no mention of whether West Island communities such as Beaconsfield will have any of their power lines buried.

Hydro Quebec, however, emphasized that they are “stepping up” to reduce vegetation around power lines and how their goal is to reduce the rate of power line-related outages by 30 per cent by 2028.

“They’ve replaced some poles and they are serious about trying to trim vegetation around as much as they can. And that’s good,” explained Bourelle. “I think that’s very positive that Hydro-Quebec is doing this kind of work. But it’s not going to prevent trees from falling on lines.”

After living through the ice storm of 1998 and several other power outages, Bourelle says he took matters into his own hands and bought a generator that he can produce electricity in his house for up to a week if needed.

“My confidence in the distribution of power in Beaconsfield is so low that I have installed a generator at my house here so that I don’t have a problem with power outages.”

Abe Kestenberg is a resident who lives in Beaconsfield.

He said that he agrees with the mayor and but knows the job will be expensive.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea. I know it’s going to be very expensive to do, especially after the fact, because they’re going to have to dig up the properties and that’s going to be a little difficult for them,” said Kestenberg. “However, it’s great because we get a lot of power outages here and it really is awful when we get them.”

Bourelle said that they had meetings with Hydro-Quebec to address their concerns but have had no commitment to bury the power lines.

“They are very, very well aware of our concerns in Beaconsfield and I think in the whole West Island and they take it and they say that things will be done and will be addressed. But we still need to see the results.”

Abe Kestenberg
Abe Kestenberg is seen in Beaconsfield, April 1 2024. (Gareth Madoc-Jones, CityNews Image)

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