Red Deer County man

Red Deer County man fights AltaLink right-of-way in court

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 06:00 am | By Tim Lasiuta

Kurt Kure has been down this road before except last time the stakes were not as high.

With foundations being laid for a massive power line transmission tower on his Red Deer County land, Kure is awaiting the outcome of a judicial review of AltaLink’s Right of Entry Order approved by the Alberta Surface Rights Board (SRB).

Kure’s case against the provincial board was heard in Court of Queen’s Bench Red Deer on Sept. 2.

He is looking to have the Right of Entry Order giving AltaLink permission to build the tower on his land two and a half miles northeast of Dickson Dam withdrawn.

“We have been down this road before the last provincial election in 2006 and again in 2011, and the whole line across this area was thrown out,” said Kure, who never thought that his fight eight years ago would still be continuing today. “Right after the last election, a provincial review was held with ponderous evidence from landowners that 85 per cent of us did not want the towers nor believed AltaLink needed them, yet the review upheld the approval.”

AltaLink is building a 350-kilometre, 500-kilovolt direct current transmission line connecting the Genesee area west of Edmonton to the Langdon area east of Calgary. The Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) is expected to improve the reliability and efficiency of the interconnected electric system and ensure Albertans have access to the lowest-priced power, says AltaLink.

During and following the provincial review of the proposed route for the line which goes through Kure’s land, the Red Deer County resident requested the lines go on either side of his property lines or be moved a distance away.

This would ensure he could build his home on the site he had previously chosen overlooking the river, said Kure.

“They denied each request,” said Kure, noting that the present tower location is right where he wants to build a home for his family that was ironically designed to be off-grid. “We already have 26 on our land, and it frustrates me that the spot I want to build, they want to put up a tower.”

During the course of a meeting with AltaLink officials, Kure said he discovered that estimates for transmission line construction were not accurate which affected route decision economics.

Kure said he bought the land where AltaLink had proposed the tower three years ago, thinking that it was safe and time to build his home.

“I am not sure we will be building any time soon,” said the engineering consultant. “My lawyer is working with a gentleman out of the Calgary area and we went to court with him, and used the same arguments in his case. He lost his judicial review. This time, our judge seemed to listen and think we got a fair hearing. We are supposed to hear in mid-October.”

Frank Togstad sought a judicial review of SRB’s decision to grant a right of entry over his property to AltaLink for purposes of the construction and operation of the Western Alberta Transmission Line.

His grounds for seeking judicial review were that the SRB erred in declining to make a decision with respect to its jurisdiction to deal with the WATL; that the SRB erred in failing to give him a reasonable opportunity to provide relevant evidence that the WATL is an interprovincial work or undertaking, and therefore is outside the jurisdiction of the SRB.

The Dickson Dam-area resident cited AltaLink statements that claimed the $1.3- billion project was meant to reinforce the aging transmission infrastructure, not build an interprovincial and export line, which he alleges to be closer to the truth.

“During my research into power transmission lines, I discovered that the entire United States has five or six high capacity lines compared to two for Alberta,” said Kure. “With more power capacity being added as new gas powered plants come online it does seem that export power is coming closer.”

The justice hearing Togstad’s case earlier this summer on July 30, dismissed his application for a judicial review.

Meanwhile, Scott Schreiner, director of external engagement for AltaLink maintained that “the Western Alberta Transmission Line is located in Alberta for Albertans. This is an entirely Alberta-focused facility that will benefit Albertans.”

Schreiner said that based on the December 2012 project approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission, construction started in early 2013 and is expected to be complete in the spring of 2015.

Kure is not sure what to do at this point.

“We will have to see what the judge’s decision is and go from there,” said Kure. “At this point, I don’t have any expectations and he did seem to want to make a good and fair decision and that is all I can ask.”

The Dickson-area landowner sees two other issues which directly relate to the transmission power line.

“There is the matter of the archaeological record on the site,” said Kure. “Stantec issued a report that set apart several sites that could not be touched, and beneath the crossing site, a potential fossil site has been identified. Throughout the route, artifacts have been found, and where the tower is on top of what is likely a valuable site as well.”

He added that the power corridor is also a waterfowl, bald eagle, osprey, and pelican habitat which sees traffic 365 days a year.

“I wonder what effect these towers will have on our wildlife and if AltaLink considered that in their planning,” said Kure.