AltaLink held another information session Feb. 25 in Blairmore to pitch its $500 million Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock (CRRCR) project.
The feedback was generally negative.
AltaLink employees in blue jackets greeted people at the door, maps lined the walls, stakeholders sparred with public relations reps and the supremely aggrieved were offered one-on-one sessions. AltaLink also gathered input from people using a large whiteboard where anyone could post notes, which ranged from thoughtful to insurgent.
“Do not build near Bellevue,” said one.
“Fifty rocks don’t make an avalanche but together and with enough energy they can cause one. Lets be like the rocks against AltaLink and AESO – make an avalanche of protest against another power line,” said another.
Members of the Crowsnest Pass’ realty community were there inveighing against AltaLink’s proposal to route power lines through Bellevue claiming the transmission infrastructure would diminish property values throughout the Pass.
Economic Development Committee chair John Pundyk said any property within sight of the proposed transmission towers would be devalued but this would have a community wide impact.
Pundyk explained that municipal property taxes are a function of the assessed value of all the properties in the Pass and the mill rate. The devaluation of a handful of properties in Bellevue would mean the mill rate would have to be increased if the municipality wanted to collect the same amount of property taxes
“Taxes would go up for all properties,” said Pundyk. “Not just on the ones in sight of the power lines.”
There is considerable disagreement about how power lines can affect property values but the advocacy group Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans (RETA) contends that high transmission lines and towers near residential areas can seriously devalue properties.
A study of agricultural properties in Canada in the mid-1980s found that the per acre values from more than 1,000 sales were 16 to 29 per cent lower for properties with easements for high voltage transmission lines than for similar properties without easements, said an RETA release.
At a previous information session in Cowley, Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) spokesperson Mike Deising said the CRRCR is needed to accommodate expanding wind farms near Pincher Creek.
Pundyk suggested it would be unfair for the Pass to be held liable because of a neighbouring municipality’s investment.
“The MD of Pincher Creek made a conscious decision to pursue wind power and they get tremendous tax benefits from the windmills, which pay a huge dividend to their municipal coffers,” said Pundyk. “They made the decision to allow the turbines and the consequences are the power lines. You can’t have one without the other.”
“Since most of the wind power is generated in the MD of Pincher Creek, it’s reasonable from our perspective to say this line should go directly north where it won’t impede on our urban setting,” he added.
Financial statements show the MD of Pincher Creek collected 33 per cent of its revenue or $2.8 million from taxing wind energy in 2013.
It also collected substantial revenue from activities associated with wind power; 21 per cent of its revenue or about $1.8 million from linear taxes, which are taxes paid on linear infrastructure like power transmission lines.
Pincher Creek collected 16 per cent of its revenue or about $1.4 million from taxes on machinery and equipment; some of which is used to maintain wind turbines.
According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, there are a total of eight wind energy projects, including 272 turbines in the MD of Pincher Creek producing 291.93 mega watts of energy.
There are another five wind energy projects and another 180 turbines waiting approval, which will produce an additional 580.70 mega watts of energy.
“The thing that frustrates me is this started from a process where they didn’t even have this route suggested,” said Ralph Tiegen, of Tiegan Enterprises, of the proposed route through Bellevue. “[AltaLink held] consultation meetings in Lundbreck and Pincher Creek and out of those consultation meetings they suggested this routing. Now they’re referring to it as the ‘stakeholders’ suggested route,’ even though the stakeholders in this area have not been engaged in the process.”
Tiegan said the line would be particularly damaging to Bellevue’s skyline because the proposed route follows the top of a mountain ridge.
“I can’t really speak to property values but I can tell you that people do not want to come and build their dream homes and pay a premium price for property that’s looking at that,” he said.
Property owners who attended the information session had similar concerns.
“It’s going to destroy the viewscape east of my land and devalue my property,” said Guy Wade Aebli.
Greg Tiegan, said his recently half-million-dollar log home in Bellevue would be drastically affected by this line.
“It seems like the people of the Crowsnest Pass haven’t been given a suitable heads-up about what’s going on here,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been left out of the loop a little bit.”
AltaLink has tabled a number of options for the Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock power line.
It had originally proposed the line take a northerly route from a substation just above Pincher Station, west to Cowley and north to an existing high-voltage line.
The Livingston Landowners Group (LLG) opposed the northerly route. In a written statement the LLG said the project would have sustained negative agricultural and environmental impacts to the area. It also said the project would violate the South South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP), which states that new development should minimize landscape fragmentation and be concentrated in existing built-up areas.
Now AltaLink is proposing the line run parallel to an existing line from the Goose Lake Substation, west to Burmis, across Highway 3 and into the Pass.
At the information session in Blairmore, Peter Brodsky, manager of external communications for AltaLink, explained that the new westerly option could take one of two possible routes; only one would affect the Pass.
One moves branches north after reaching Lee Lake, the other option continues west and into Bellevue.
Brodsky said these westerly options run through the Lundbreck corridor, one of the region’s most densely populated areas.
“This has brought in about 1000 additional landowners to the conversation,” he said and added that the northerly route would affect about 400 stakeholders.
AltaLink will be consolidating public feedback with economic and environmental studies to refine the list of suggested routes before seeking additional consultation in the spring. They’ll come up with an alternate and preferred route before presenting their case in a facilities application to the AUC sometime in the fall.
If approved, construction will start in early 2017 and completed in the fall of 2018.
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