Alberta landowners continue fight against power line project

A group opposed to electrical line construction in a scenic area of southern Alberta is hoping the new provincial government will cancel the project.

The Livingstone Landowners Group registered its objections with the previous government to a line that AltaLink would build upon route approval by the Alberta Electrical Systems Operator (AESO).

The line would extend 40 kilometres from a point north of Pincher Creek called Castle Rock to a point north of Lundbreck called Chapel Rock. Length of the line would depend on which of several proposed routes is chosen, if any.

“We’re very hopeful that reality will click in here and somebody will say, ‘why in hell would we spend all that money for something that is environmentally problematic to begin with and then be arguably not necessary,’ ” said Bill Trafford, acting president of the landowners group.

The group has sent letters outlining its objections to premier Rachel Notley, environment and parks minister Shannon Phillips and energy minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd.

A spokesperson for Phillips said June 24 that the letter had not yet been received. However, he said the project is still in the planning phase and AltaLink has been provided with information noting the importance of the region’s natural landscape.

Costs for the proposed line would vary considerably, depending on the route chosen, but Trafford said they range from $350 million to $700 million. He said the estimated cost was $189 million when the project was first proposed.

The landowners group objects to all proposed routes. It contends that the line is not needed and if built would affect native fescue grassland and other sensitive areas.

“Given the values at stake and recent changes in the electrical energy sector, LLG has requested the premier of Alberta to re-evaluate the need for this proposed line and consider whether it should be deferred or cancelled,” the group said in its news release.

Trafford said in an interview that the New Democrats might be more philosophically inclined to review Alberta’s energy deregulation, which occurred several years ago amid promises of reduced electrical rates.

Failing a cancellation of the local project, there are cheaper alternatives for increasing transmission capacity around Pincher Creek, he said.

That area already has windmills and lines capable of carrying 600 to 700 megawatts.

AESO decides on the need for additional electrical transmission and it is AltaLink’s job to determine the best route. Its most recent update to area landowners shows various alternatives still under consideration.

Trafford said construction of the line is contrary to directions indicated in the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. In addition to potential environmental damage, “the esthetics would break your heart,” he said.

Views of the Rockies from Pincher Creek have been adversely affected by the proliferation of wind turbines, he said.

“One of our members called it the electrical equivalent of Fort McMurray (home of Alberta’s oilsands industry).”

The Castle-Chapel line would carry electricity from wind turbine projects that are proposed but not confirmed.

Trafford said new wind turbine technology allows for electrical production at lower wind speeds than are typical of the Pincher Creek and Cowley regions.

“What used to be an ideal place for a windmill, Pincher Creek, now it’s sort of a less than ideal place,” he said.

AltaLink’s timeline on the project, which it notes is subject to change, would see construction start in early 2017 and be completed in fall 2018.

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