May 27, 2008
Prince Edward Island

Troubled trails

SUMMERSIDE – Scenic trail for walkers and cyclists. Utility corridor for high-voltage power lines.

Denis Dunne offers a simple explanation why they shouldn’t meet.

“They don’t belong together,” says the president of Prince Edward Island Trails Inc.

The non-profit advocacy group for trail users has expressed concern to the Province about Maritime Electric’s proposal for a high-voltage transmission line from western P.E.I. to Sherbrooke.

Maritime Electric wants the line to transport wind energy from the Suez Energy North America West Cape wind park and provide capacity for other wind energy projects.
Dunne explained the proposed route runs along about 12.5 km of the Confederation Trail, from just east of Wellington to St. Eleanors.

“The Confederation Trail has been built for the sole use and enjoyment of trail users, not to be used as a corridor for a utility company,” reads a letter from Island Trails to the Province. “The landscape around the trail has not been disturbed to any great extent; we wish to continue this excellent record.”

The letter also expresses concern about potential trail damage from equipment when lines need maintenance.

Dunne said he’s “baffled” government would even consider having the lines run along the trail.

He added Island Trails isn’t concerned only about potential damage to the trail but also potential health effects on users.

Dunne said they support the efforts of Islanders for the Safe Transmission of Power, which has been lobbying government to implement buffer zones between transmission lines and homes and sensitive areas.

“That, to me, makes a whole lot of sense.”

The provincial Department of Environment says the first phase of the environmental impact assessment has been completed for the proposed route.

That phase included public consultations and review by a technical review committee.

Greg Wilson, environmental assessment co-ordinator, said comments from the committee went out to Maritime Electric May 6 for response.

He explained some questions centred on the trail, such as how the utility proposes to avoid damage from heavy equipment when working on lines.

Wilson explained the committee will review Maritime Electric’s responses to such questions. When the committee has been satisfied, Wilson will prepare a screening document for Environment Minister George Webster. The minister can deny the proposal, approve it – with comments, if any – or defer for more information.

Wilson noted there have also been over 40 written submissions that he summarizes and forwards to the minister.

“We did get a lot of written concerns from the public,” he said.

Maritime Electric spokesperson Kim Griffin said that the environment assessment process is ongoing.

Lori A. Mayne

The Journal Pioneer

27 May 2008

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