AltaLink route concerns raised in meeting with M.D of Taber

Written by Greg Price

Wednesday, 22 February 2012 15:14

There are locals none too happy about the preferred route that has 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.
“It’s ludicrous — the preferred route goes through some of the highest-priced farmland in Alberta. There are sections and half sections right in the middle and you’ve got pivots in there. Also, crossing the lake, this preferred route has more twists and turns in it,” said Darrell Kuryvial, one of a handful of concerned citizens in a delegation to M.D. of Taber council at its Feb. 14 meeting, asking council for its support in opposing the preferred route of the project. “Some places where there are existing powerlines and canals that already have right of ways, people feel those towers would be moved quite a way into their quarters because of existing right of ways already. I wish AltaLink would give us the same consideration as they did the province.”
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 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.
According to the delegation, those open houses have fallen on deaf ears.
“We’ve all met with their representatives and the frustrating part is we all live within arm’s length of each other and we never get the same representative. They don’t what to know how everyone is feeling I guess,” said Kuryvial. “The open houses, I’ve gone to them and all that is, is going through the motions because they are required to.”
The Potato Growers of Alberta set up a meeting with AltaLink officials last Thursday to voice their concerns as well with how much of an impact the project will have in the area.
“Twenty per cent of our potato acres are affected,” said delegation member Bill Tamminga to council. “In regards to spraying, we as potato growers are nervous, when planting and growing towards the line, if they don’t get sprayed for fungicide, the west wind could take out the whole field and the neighbour’s field.”
Kuryvial added when spraying issues were brought up to AltaLink members at open houses, they replied that drifting over could be utilized.
“For Kinniburgh or any other aerial applicator, that’s the worst thing they want to do is drift,” said Kuryvial in explaining the buffer zone aerial spray planes require near powerlines which affects row crop acres. “We brought up the property values of how that is going to affect them and of course their answer is it’s not going to impact them at all. It’s total arrogance.”
Other concerns the delegation cited with the project is the health risk to people and animals with possible links to cancer being near powerlines, highly productive soil being taken out of production, safety issues working farm equipment around towers and power lines, and further development being hindered.
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.
“They (pelicans) are not even native to this country, that has just happened in the last 10 or 20 years,” said councillor Dwight Tolton, voicing his preference that the alternate AltaLink route or the proposed crossing over Chin Coulee Dam should be used instead. “People should be given as many rights as pelicans.”
Coun. Don Johnson added there can be a disconnect when people who are making decisions come out of Calgary and Edmonton. They do not have a clue about the agriculture southern Alberta has that services the rest of the province.
“We keep telling them all the time we have four or five per cent of the arable land in the province under irrigation, we produce 20 per cent of the gross dollars in agriculture out of this area, that is very significant,” said Johnson.
“Yes, we need power, but there has to be a better balance to deal with that.”
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.
POWER PLAY: M.D. council was represented at the PGA’s meeting with AltaLink on Thursday. M.D. of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin attended the PGA’s meeting with AltaLink officials and came away with the impression the writing was already on the wall.
Brewin added council will be doing some letter writing opposing the project route and will seek an audience with Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Evan Berger to see if a reprieve can be made.
“These high power lines affect their ability to spray. You get these big high towers around their potato areas and it limits their ability to aerial spray,” said Brewin in an interview with The Times after the scheduled meeting with AltaLink. “To be honest with you, I was a little disappointed, I think AltaLink came with their mind already made up that this was the (preferred) route they were going to take which they relayed back. Agriculture is a big part of our municipality and potato growers are one of our bigger industries so we take it seriously.”