City back Pines residents on power line placement, urges AUC to review decision

The City of Red Deer will ask the Alberta Utilities Commission to review its power line route through the Pines neighbourhood.

The City of Red Deer will ask the Alberta Utilities Commission to review its power line route through the Pines neighbourhood.

Mayor Tara Veer announced the city’s intention to formally ask the commission (AUC) to reconsider its decision in a meeting with more than two dozen Pines residents on Monday afternoon.

“I can say we’ve heard you and weighed various options,” said Veer.

A group representing Pines residents has already made its own application for a review of the AUC’s decision to allow AltaLink to use an existing right-of-way behind Pines homes for a higher-capacity 138-kilovolt line strung along taller unipole transmission towers.

Residents have lobbied to move the power lines below the escarpment, a position the city endorsed before AUC hearings on $350 million worth of transmission upgrades for Central Alberta began in March.

The announcement the city would make its own application for review and variances was greeted with loud applause by residents, who gathered in a city conference room in the Professional Building downtown.

“We’re just really, really, really pleased. We’re just glad that the city came through for us,” said Ashley Meyers, who is the mother of two young children and concerned about the health impacts of a higher voltage line so close to her home.

Meyers was buoyed by the strong of support from neighbours at the gathering.

“We’re all in it together. It’s not just one or two people leading it,” she said. “We’re passionate about it. We don’t want it in our backyard. We want our beautiful area to stay beautiful.”

Residents are hoping that their proposed alternate route will be put back on the table. It would move the power lines to the bottom of the escarpment and leave more than 50 homes outside a 150-metre zone around the power line.

That route was not considered by the AUC. Instead, the panel considered — but dismissed — an AltaLink-proposed alternate route that would have moved a shorter stretch of line below the escarpment.

AltaLink’s alternate is considered a second-best option by residents.

Paul Goranson, the city’s director of corporate services, said the municipality will argue that the AUC misinterpreted how the power lines impact on residents should be measured.

In making its decision, the AUC suggests that since the upgraded line would follow an existing route with transmission towers, the impact on residents is virtually “nil.”

The City of Red Deer disagrees and will argue that an alternate route should be chosen.

Parsons Close resident Tom Conroy is not happy that AltaLink has already been tagging trees for trimming and removal along the existing right-of-way even before the appeal period is over.

“It makes it seem like this thing was decided a long time ago and that all these steps we’re taking are just meaningless.”

That shows a lack of respect for residents, he said.

AltaLink spokesman Peter Brodsky said the company has been given approval to complete the transmission upgrade and is in the process of beginning right-of-way clearing.

Work is underway on other parts of the project and he didn’t have a specific date when brush and tree crews might be in the Pines area.

“I know we have signage in the area. We will update that signage and any information for residents as we get closer to that area.”

Brodsky said if the AUC chooses to review the route, “we will certainly participate in that process.

“But we’re currently under the direction the project is going ahead and we’re working to the schedule as approved by the AUC.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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