AltaLink project proposed to come through M.D.

Written by Trevor Busch

Wednesday, 25 January 2012 15:49

The preferred and alternate routes have been announced for a proposed AltaLink transmission project in southern Alberta.
Under proposed routing, the Picture Butte to Etzikom Coulee Transmission Project will transect the western area of the M.D. of Taber, making a north-south crossing of Highway 3 near the hamlet of Cranford. The project would see a new transmission line connect the Picture Butte Substation to a proposed substation in the area north of Wrentham. From that point the proposed Etzikom Coulee to Whitla Transmission Project would head east and connect to the Whitla Substation (east of Highway 885 and south of Township Road 80).
“The preferred routes for both projects represent the lowest potential impact when compared to other options,” said AltaLink director of siting, Hudson Foley, in a press release. “We have taken a close look at the options and compared them in terms of potential impacts like residential and environmental, to name just a few.”
The Picture Butte to Etzikom Coulee Transmission project would be a 240 kV double circuit transmission line approximately 66 to 80 kilometres in length. The estimated cost is approximately $160 to $250 million, which would amount to 16 to 25 cents on the typical residential utility bill.
AltaLink hosted open houses in January 2011 for the projects and has since been working to refine their original routing options using information gathered from landowners and environmental work. To date, 600 one-on-one consultations have been completed with landowners.
“Our staff has certainly had some discussions, and we’ve had discussions as a council,” said Coun. Don Johnson, who represents the southwest area of the M.D. of Taber. “They had some open house stuff last fall, and invited people to it. We’ve had ongoing discussions with them, and they usually keep us pretty well apprised.”
With the amount of agricultural lands in the project area, Foley said it was clear from the outset placing a line that would minimize agricultural impacts was important.
“This area of the province has a lot of specialized agricultural practices, such as aerial spraying and irrigation,” said Foley. “So it was crucial that we really did out homework. This took some time but it allowed us to fully understand possible impacts, and how they could potentially be mitigated.”
Coulee crossings were another area where mitigation strategies needed to be prepared. In AltaLinks’s original routing options from January was a proposed crossing over the Chin Coulee Dam, which was discovered to be a sensitive pelican feeding area.
“After consulting with landowners in the area we were made aware of the pelican feeding site and have changed routing to cross Chin Coulee about one kilometre to the west. This move to the west reduces the potential environmental impact, and also reduces the number of residences near the line,” said Foley.
Johnson had also been made aware of the concerns of residents in the area with regard to pelican habitation.
“The biggest issue that I’ve heard is down at Stafford Lake subdivision. There’s half a dozen permanent residents down there. They’ve called and talked to me, and I’ve told them I’d be happy to get together with them — they were worried about the pelicans, and what the impact of that was going to be. Before there were any reservoirs around there were some natural bodies of water, but not a lot of them in this part of the country. When we put these irrigation reservoirs in, we seemed to attract some of those kinds of birds — and these people were concerned about them.”
Both projects are part of the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement and are needed as existing transmission lines and substations in the southern part of the province do not currently have the capacity to connect power generated from new wind farm projects.
AltaLink hosted open houses for both projects in December 2011 in Coaldale, Stirling and Foremost.
Information about preferred and alternate routes was presented, and project teams were on hand to answer questions.
Coun. Johnson offered his view it would be unlikely the proposed transmission line would meet with much landowner opposition in the M.D. of Taber due to routing.
“I haven’t heard anything from any of the farmers. Usually farmers, when they run a line — our rule is two feet outside the property line for an M.D. right of way. If it’s any bigger than just a telephone pole, then you’re talking a whole different ball game — when they’ve got those bigger ones, then they need to go into a landowner’s property. They secure permission and consideration — I don’t know that there would be a lot of opposition out in that area, to be honest.”
After consultation is complete, AltaLink will submit an application to the Alberta Utilities Commission for approval to build the new transmission facilities. If approved, construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013.
More information on the projects can be found at