Altalink pledges renewed consultation in placing new line

Altalink is promising more stakeholder involvement, openness and transparency in a renewed public consultation process for a Western Alberta electrical transmission line route.

Altalink is promising more stakeholder involvement, openness and transparency in a renewed public consultation process for a Western Alberta electrical transmission line route.

Starting in February, the company will start consulting with rural residents living between Airdrie and Pigeon Lake. A new series of public open houses and information displays are planned for Innisfail, Ponoka, Eckville, Pine Lake, Rimbey, Sylvan Lake and Olds.

Altalink’s senior vice-president of external engagement, Leigh Clarke, said the estimated $1.1 billion transmission line project that would start in Genesee, west of Edmonton, and end in Langdon, east of Calgary, will take up less land than previously proposed.

A more efficient DC, or direct current, technology would be used for the 500-kilovolt line, requiring smaller towers, said Clarke. As Alberta’s power needs grow, the line’s capacity can be increased with additional equipment at each end, reducing the need to disturb new land with more lines, he added.

Clarke said no specific routes are yet being considered. When one is chosen, after public consultation, he promised affected landowners will get fair compensation for having towers and lines running across on their property.

“We will listen to the landowners and some premium will be offerred over fair market value because this project is deemed to have a societal value,” he said.

Altalink has allowed a year for public consultation, another year to secure approval from Alberta’s energy regulator, and then two years for project construction.

Project opponent Joe Anglin, leader of the Lavesta Area Group, is skeptical of most of Altalink’s claims, including promises of openness. He referred to the project’s sordid history — previous transmission line approvals were scrapped after Alberta’s energy regulator was caught spying on opposing landowners.

Altalink was ordered to go back to and begin the proposal and consultation process all over again.

The controversial Bill 50, which tosses out the need for public consultation when the provincial government deems a project is vital, assures that “99 per cent of this stuff was already approved without any public process at all,” said Anglin, who discounts assertions that the province will face electrical shortages if the new transmission line doesn’t begin construction by 2012.

Anglin believes this need hasn’t been proven to Albertans.

He also casts doubts on the $1.1 billion project cost estimate, and Clarke’s assertion the new line will only increase each Albertans’ power bills by $1 a month. Anglin said the Western Alberta line is only one of four new proposed lines that will cost at least $5.4 billion. He calculates these will boost monthly infrastructure costs on each electricity bill eight-fold.

“I don’t know whether a lot of Albertans can afford this.”

Other rural residents previously raised health concerns and farming issues, in relation to having a transmission line cross properties.

Public open houses will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on:

• Feb. 1 at the Innisfail Legion, 5108-49th Ave.

• Feb. 2 at the Ponoka Kinsmen Community Centre, 5009-46th Ave.

• Feb. 3 at the Eckville Community Centre, 5305-52 St.

• Feb. 4 at the Pine Lake Hub, two km south of Hwy 42 on Hwy 816.

• Feb. 18 at the Rimbey Community Centre, 5109-54th St.

• Feb. 22 at the Olds College Alumni Building, 4500-50th St.

As well, information displays on the project will be set up from noon to 8 p.m. on:

• March 1 to 5 at the Ponoka Kinsmen Community Centre, 5009-46th Ave.

• March 8 to12 at the Chateau Suites’ Marina Suite in Sylvan Lake, 1-5100 Lakeshore Drive

• March 22 to 26 at the Olds College Frank Grisdale Building, 4500-50th St.

• March 22 to 26 at the Rimbey Community Centre, 5109-54th St.

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