AltaLink project set to begin

AltaLink crews will begin replacing power lines through the Pines neighbourhood Monday as Mayor Tara Veer and affected residents expressed their disappointment.

AltaLink crews will begin replacing power lines through the Pines neighbourhood Monday as Mayor Tara Veer and affected residents expressed their disappointment.

An 11th-hour effort to force the Alberta Utilities Commission to reconsider its rebuild plans in the neighbourhood fizzled late last month when requests for a review of the project by Pines residents and the City of Red Deer were rejected. Pines residents have lobbied for an alternate route that would move a stretch of power lines to a less intrusive location at the bottom of the escarpment.

Mayor Tara Veer issued a statement on Friday expressing the city’s unhappiness with the outcome.

“We are disappointed as the city strongly supported the alternate route suggested by the Pines Group,” said the mayor, who met with Pines residents earlier this week.

“We were hopeful that the AUC would rule in favour of the alternative route, which would have meant lower impacts for residents in the Pines neighbourhood; however, the city acknowledges that the decision of the AUC stands given their quasi-judicial status.”

Kerrie-Anne Brewster, one of about 50 Pines residents, that had lobbied for a different route was downbeat.

“I’m so disappointed,” she said.

Residents had held out hope that they could get AltaLink to reposition the line if they helped pay for the move through tax increases, similar to the local improvement taxes that have been used to pave back alleys.

It does not look like that will happen, she said, adding she is still waiting to get more information from the group.

“I don’t understand why AltaLink can do this,” she said. “I thought we had a hope, but I guess it doesn’t look like we do.”

The upgrade of the power line through the Pines neighbourhood is a small part of a $350-million upgrade of transmission capacity in the Red Deer region to keep pace with growth.

While the lines have been in place since the 1950s, before the Pines neighbourhood was built, residents saw the upgrade project as a perfect opportunity to move the lines to a better location. Residents made their case at a public hearing in Red Deer last spring, but failed to convince the AUC panel to direct AltaLink to choose the alternate route over the company’s preferred route, which maintained the status quo.

AltaLink said the preferred route makes the best economic and environmental sense and uses an existing right-of-way.

Residents have expressed frustration that their concerns about having larger towers with higher-capacity lines were ignored. Besides removing unsightly power lines from the middle of the neighbourhood, the residents’ proposed route would have reduced electromagnetic frequency (EMF), noise and radio interference.

AltaLink said on Friday it will be notifying residents of the upcoming work schedule. There will be temporary road and trail closures at various times until spring in the area between 67th and 82nd Streets.

Meanwhile, work continues on replacing lines between 67th Street and Taylor Drive and is expected to wrap up in mid-February.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com