AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 3

Cross-examination of the Applicants (AltaLink and EPCOR) continued on April 13, with Darin Watson (senior AltaLink engineer on the Heartland Project Team) admitting that the “150-metre distance from the centre of the power line” was a distance arbitrarily selected by the Applicants as the highest zone of impact on homes, schools, daycares, hospitals and businesses. He said they could just as well have chosen 200m or 800m.

Under cross-examination from RETA legal counsel, AltaLink was confused about the total cost of proposed “critical transmission infrastructure” projects legislated by the Alberta Government in Bill 50. AltaLink indicated that burying part of the Heartland line is technically feasible, and that you can stage the construction of an underground line better than for an above ground line.

When asked about the aesthetically unpleasing overhead towers that would be up to 77m tall, Mr. Watson said, “To use the old adage beauty is in the eye of the beholder…..I like to personally think of them as little inukshuks all standing in a line”.

Mr. Watson repeated numerous times that, with respect to undergrounding,  not a dollar more should be spent than is necessary, and yet he stated numerous times that towers could easily be moved up to 30m this way or that way to accommodate resident concerns (at additional cost).

AltaLink agreed that property values of nearby homes and businesses would decrease with construction of an overhead line and that burying the line would ameliorate property devaluation. AltaLink also agreed that the proposed Heartland line has caused significant stress among those people who would live, work or attend school near the line. Mr. Watson did not think that school children should have the opportunity to voice their concerns or to otherwise participate in the Heartland public consultation process.

With respect to the route selection process (including narrowing down the routes), AltaLink admitted that this was done subjectively based on the Applicants’ value judgments. Cross-examination by RETA’s legal counsel also clarified that the Applicants had not researched the optimal routing for the underground option, deciding instead to bury it almost exactly along the very same route as the above ground option. (Significant cost savings could be achieved if optimal routing had been considered.) It became obvious that many judgment calls had been made on the Applicants’ costing of the underground option. For example, the Applicants arbitrarily decided at one point to increase the underground contingency costs (based on their risk assessment) by 20%.

Mr. Watson also admitted under cross-examination that environmental risks are greater for the overhead than for the underground option.

~ by RETA on April 14, 2011.

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