AltaLink plan hearings set

Those opposed to proposed transmission line routes in Central Alberta, including the City of Red Deer, will have an opportunity to make their case at a public hearing.

Those opposed to proposed transmission line routes in Central Alberta, including the City of Red Deer, will have an opportunity to make their case at a public hearing.

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has ordered a public hearing be held beginning on March 11 in Red Deer to review AltaLink’s plans to rebuild transmission lines, as well as build new lines and substations.

The electrical provider is applying to the AUC for approval to build substations near Ponoka, Innisfail and Didsbury, as well as about 35 km of lines in those areas.

As well, there’s a 71-km line overhaul proposed from Benalto, to the edge of Red Deer’s West Park neighbourhood, to Nova Chemicals at Joffre.

AltaLink says the work is necessary to upgrade transmission capacity in the fast-growing Central Alberta corridor.

However, there is some opposition to the preferred route that AltaLink has outlined for its power lines.

Thirty-seven objections — including one on behalf of 30 residents — have been filed with the AUC, said spokesman Jim Law.

The City of Red Deer wants an upgraded power line in the Pines neighbourhood shifted to the bottom of the escarpment to run near the railway lines. AltaLink wants to keep the line in its current location at the top of the escarpment.

City council also does not support the location of a short stretch of the line in the West Park area.

That stretch of line is also opposed by a number of residents in the area.

AltaLink spokesman Scott Schreiner said the company’s view is that the preferred routes in both cases offers the least impact on residents.

However, alternate routes have been provided and if the AUC chooses one of those AltaLink will not hesitate to change its plans.

Schreiner said that a hearing was expected and is welcomed.

“This is a big project that has the potential to impact a large number of people,” he said.

“We’ve done a lot of work and we’re confident in the submissions that we made and we look forward to answering the questions of those people who want to ask us how we got to those decisions.”

An objection has also been filed by the Town of Innisfail, which does not like AltaLink’s preferred route because it will interfere with an industrial area and run through land that has been earmarked for future residential growth.

Many property owners from around the region who attended an information session in Red Deer last month expressed worries about the effect the power line and substation projects would have on property values, health and the environment.

Law said it’s difficult to predict how long the hearing will last but it might go two weeks.

“The kinds of objections vary with the location,” he said.

Law said the AUC panel will decide whether AltaLink’s plans are in the public interest before making a decision on its application. The preferred route may be approved, or the panel may approve it with conditions or changes or the application may be denied.

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