Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans
School Falls Victim to Heartland High Voltage Power Line
May 26, 2013 was a sad day for Strathcona County residents who attended a Farewell Fair to say goodbye to Colchester Elementary School which will be closing in a few weeks to make way for the massive controversial 500 kilovolt overhead Heartland power line (Sherwood Park News, CTV News, Edmonton Journal). Numerous RETA members had attended the popular school, as had their children and grandchildren.
Colchester School, Colchester parents, Elk Island Public Schools, RETA, County of Strathcona, HALO (Homeowners Against Lines Overhead) and many others had made the strong case for burying the Heartland line to avoid closing the school, but the Alberta Government, AltaLink, EPCOR, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) all refused to support an underground line and insisted that the best route for the overhead line was right by Colchester School (within 140 m of the school).
Many interveners at the 2011 Heartland AUC hearing had presented data and experts showing the negative health and safety effects of overhead high voltage power line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the corona effect, but unfortunately the Alberta PC Government, the AESO and the AUC refused to seriously consider these data and expert testimony. Parents of Colchester School elementary students voted overwhelmingly to stop sending their children to the school unless the line was buried to eliminate the very real health and safety risks of an overhead line. As a result of the AUC decision to allow an overhead line to be built right next to the school, the school will be closing the end of this month.
The real irony is that if the $21 million that the Alberta Government is spending to send Colchester students to Fultonvale School (over 10 km away) and the $30 million to erect monopole towers instead of lattice towers within a short stretch of the Heartland route would almost have covered the additional capital costs of burying the power line. And, expert testimony presented at the AUC hearing indicated that when the capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs of the Heartland line are combined over the life of the line, an underground line is less expensive than an overhead line.
The needless closing of a well-maintained and highly regarded elementary school in the Strathcona County Sherwood Park Greenbelt is indeed a sad statement on the priorities of the Alberta PC Government and the electricity transmission industry in Alberta. Everyone knows that schools are in short supply in Alberta, and to close a perfectly good one to make way for the Heartland line which will only be energized to 15% of its full capacity defies all logic. Shame on the Alberta Government, and shame on AltaLink and EPCOR.
For more information on the closing of Colchester Elementary School, see this link.