A power line proposed for southwestern Alberta continues to raise objections from landowners.
The exact route of the $500 million AltaLink transmission line from Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock has yet to be determined, but the Livingstone Landowners Group does not like any of the options.
It questions whether the line is needed at all, despite an Alberta Electrical Systems Operator report that deemed the lines necessary to transmit wind turbine electrical energy into the grid.
“When the needs assessment was done, there were intentions of building a lot more turbines than what are actually being built,” said landowners group president Ted Smith.
AltaLink, the electrical transmission company recently bought by Berkshire Hathaway, held the second round of public consultations on proposed routes Feb. 10-11 in Cowley and Lundbreck.
It introduced proposed routes in October 2014 and has since added an additional option. They involve potential routes through Burmis and Bellevue in the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, as well as routing through native prairie grasslands and a wildlife corridor frequented by elk, deer and grizzly bears.
“We’ve been directed by the AESO to put together a facilities application to satisfy this particular request of the AESO, which is to build a link from Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock,” said Peter Brodsky, manager of external communications for AltaLink.
“This is an information gathering stage. We’re not making any decisions today.…This is an opportunity to look at all the alternatives we’re putting forward.”
The Livingstone Landowners Group has sent a letter to Alberta premier Jim Prentice asking him to re-evaluate the need for the line and consider deferring or cancelling it.
Smith said Prentice had not responded as of last week, but the letter had only recently been sent.
Other parts of the Southwest Alberta Transmission Reinforcement plan have been cancelled in the past, he added.
“With the economic conditions in Alberta right now, we’re cutting hospitals or not allowing the cancer hospital to be built, and trying to cut education and health, and here we are paying money for a power line that’s doubtful whether it’s going to be any benefit,” said Smith.
The power line is not government funded, but he said a government guarantee ties up public money, at least temporarily.
The landowners group said some of the proposed power line routes would contravene the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, which was approved last year after many years in development.
“The SSRP very specifically says to use existing corridors. There’s only one of these proposals that does that to any great extent,” Smith said.
“LLG’s position on this south route is, it does follow an existing power line and we say that’s a benefit. They could put it underground through all this development for a couple miles and then not have the people up there affected to such a great extent.”
Other routes could affect native grassland and wildlife corridors in the Porcupine Hills and the Lee Lake areas or would cross Highway 22, also known as the Cowboy Trail.
Brodsky said AltaLink has undertaken a complete environmental assessment of the proposed routes, which will be factored into its eventual recommendation of a preferred and an alternate route for the line.
Those recommendations will be provided to the Alberta Utilities Commission, likely this fall, after another round of community meetings, he said.
The commission then has the option of accepting the recommendations, accepting them with changes or sending the application back to AltaLink for further work.
Brodsky said the first meeting last week in Cowley drew about 120 people, whom he said were respectful, well informed and willing to give their opinions. Smith said he and the landowners group members worry that people won’t take the opportunity to provide input.
“People are a little bit reluctant to put their opinions up there, and some people are really frustrated with the process and don’t want to co-operate with them, so they don’t get their opinion in,” Smith said.
“And you need to. Even if you don’t agree with the process, you still have to play ball with them, or your opinion is lost.”
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