AltaLink’s recommendation to place a high-voltage transmission line mainly on the west side of Hwy 2 received more opposition from landowner groups on Friday.
James Laycraft, a Calgary lawyer representing the West of Crossfield group of landowners southwest of Carstairs, and Gavin Fitch, a Calgary lawyer representing the 566 Corridor Group, appeared in front of the Alberta Utilities Commission panel in Red Deer to question the company’s recommendation for the Western Alberta Transmission Line between the Calgary and Edmonton areas.
Both groups are part of the Red Route Coalition which is opposed to the preferred route. This route is generally on the west side of Hwy 2 while the alternate route is mainly on the east side. The company plans to build and operate a 350-km, 500 kV (500,000 volts) transmission line from the Genesee generators southwest of Edmonton to Langdon near Calgary. The preferred route would parallel 211 km of existing 240 kV lines.
Laycraft asked how landowner consultations were handled for the preferred and alternate routes.
Hudson Foley, director of siting for AltaLink, replied that 65 per cent of landowners have negotiated deals with AltaLink. This percentage represents properties where they parallel other existing transmission lines.
“When we’re comparing lines, we have to know how many can be bought out on both lines,” said Laycraft. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I don’t believe so,” replied Foley.
Foley said he has examples on the alternate, as well as the preferred route, where the proposed line directions have changed as a result of consultation with landowners.
AltaLink spokesman Scott Schreiner said for the entirety of the preferred route, deals have been reached with 55 per cent of landowners. He said they didn’t want to spend extra money on the alternate route.
“Where landowners have agreed to allow us on their land in advance, we’ve been able to do preliminary surveying and environmental work,” said Schreiner later. “We wanted to be able to maintain our schedule to get our line in service.”
The landowner groups favour the alternate route, in part because most of the power line would straddle quarter section lines instead of running through farmer fields. Fitch represents eight families who own land immediately south of Hwy 566, which is the east-west highway just north of CrossIron Mills shopping outlet near Balzac.
“We think the (alternate) route has less environmental impact, less agricultural impact, it’s cheaper and the residential impact is essentially comparable between the two,” Fitch said later. “So we see the fairer and objective weighing of the various criteria tips you towards (the Crossfield Tie Option).”
Earlier this week, Alberta Utilities Commission ruled it wouldn’t adjourn the western transmission hearing because the Alberta Court of Appeal hadn’t yet ruled on issues arising from last year’s Heartland power line hearings.
The commission ruled that proceeding now will not be a waste of time, as asserted by some parties. The evidence is relevant, regardless of the outcome of the Alberta Court of Appeal decision, it added.