Innisfail, residents oppose AltaLink route

The Town of Innisfail and more than a dozen area residents are urging AltaLink’s proposed power line route to be changed.

The Town of Innisfail and more than a dozen area residents are urging AltaLink’s proposed power line route to be changed.

Rural residents share similar concerns with the section of power lines that will pass by them and are part of a $350-million project to upgrade transmission lines and facilities in Central Alberta.

Many of the 17 people who gathered on Monday at the Alberta Utilities Commission hearing in a Red Deer Gasoline Alley hotel voiced fears about the potential health effects from electromagnetic fields, effects on wildlife, impacts on property values, possible spread of crop diseases such as clubroot, and the blight the new line will impose on the landscape.

The Town of Innisfail is not happy with the company’s preferred route, citing its proximity to a burgeoning residential area and the restraints it may pose on future development.

Monday marked the fifth day of Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearings before a three-person panel.

Harvey and Ruth Lind are third-generation farmers on their land and don’t want to see a power line 450 metres from their home and a new substation within 600 metres.

They have many concerns, including the amount of noise the high-voltage lines and substation will create.

The line would also interfere with a plane runway on their property.

Ruth Lind said the family has sunk 80 years of sweat and toil into the picturesque farmland and she doesn’t want to see that effort ruined by power lines that could be put elsewhere.

The project has already had an impact on her family.

Her daughter moved off the farm because she didn’t want to raise her children near the proposed substation. The family has spent the last three years worrying about what is going to happen with the line.

Ivo Wachter has looked into studies around electric and magnetic fields and is concerned about links to cancer.

He acknowledges AltaLink has produced research saying the lines are safe but he’s not convinced.

“I think it’s a biased position they took.”

In its application, AltaLink notes that the World Health Organization and Health Canada have reviewed available research and determined that extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields pose no long-term health risk.

Wachter said he hopes residents’ concerns have been heard.

“By participating in this, I believe, I hope, we will be able to make a difference,” he told the panel.

Jeralyn Rasmussen, who lives several kilometres southeast of Innisfail, said she wants to keep the land, where her daughter is the fifth generation farming it, pristine for future generations.

“Obviously, I’m very emotional that AltaLink wants to come in and build a power line that will be an industrial eyesore on the land,” she said, adding the family have already accommodated pipelines and fibre optic lines on their property.

Craig Teal, who is Innisfail’s director of planning and operational services, said the town favours using an existing power line right-of-way, which passes through what will be a future industrial area.

The preferred route will also take the line past the Woodlands subdivision, which is expected to build out to 300 to 400 homes as the town grows.

AltaLink’s preferred route runs south of the town and then up the west side and an alternate route goes across the north edge of town and then south. The town wants to see a modified version of the alternate route using the existing right-of-way.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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