During the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearing on the Heartland transmission line in April and May, 2011, AltaLink and EPCOR promised to follow the Alberta and federal government directives not to conduct construction activities during the bird breeding and nesting season. This directive is important because, when properly followed, it ensures that migratory bird species are protected during their most vulnerable life cycle activities.
Both lattice towers and monopole towers for the Heartland line were erected in the Sherwood Park Greenbelt by AltaLink, EPCOR and Montreal-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin during the local migratory bird breeding and nesting season this year. Towers were even erected in the midst of wetlands during the nesting period. While one lattice tower was being erected at Baseline Slough adjacent to Baseline Road and Anthony Henday East, parts of the tower were laying right on top of cattails that grow along the shoreline of the pond. Shoreline cattails provide ideal nesting habitat for many migratory wetland birds including ducks, coots, grebes and red-winged blackbirds, to name but a few.
Although this high voltage transmission line construction activity is in violation of both federal and provincial legislation, it is highly doubtful that either order of government will do anything about it. Both the federal and Alberta governments have a recent history of very lax environmental monitoring and enforcement, leaving it up to industry to decide whether or not it wants to follow environmental protection legislation and guidelines. For example, the Alberta Government amended legislation in 2008 to exempt construction of all high voltage power lines from requiring environmental impact assessments under provincial legislation, as part of streamlining the building of new high voltage transmission lines across the province, whether these lines are necessary or not.
So…..not only will the massive double circuit overhead 500 kilovolt Heartland line with 18 conductor wires and 2 shield wires kill thousands of birds every year primarily through collision (estimates of over 14,000 birds/year), but construction of the line has also violated provincial and federal bird protection legislation by negatively affecting the breeding and nesting of migratory birds along the Heartland line route.
It is interesting to note that even an AltaLink biologist recognizes the high mortality of birds as they collide with overhead high voltage transmission lines. To quote from a recent Edmonton Journal article, “(Nikki) Heck was sent out to investigate. ‘What I found was, when a bird collides with a transmission line, there’s no (power) outage, so the company doesn’t even know it happened,’ she explains. She began to research, and discovered that the impact of electricity infrastructure on birds was quite significant and virtually unknown to the Canadian electricity industry. ‘I was blown away by the scale of the issue.’ Collisions with the lines is a big issue, especially for water birds (ducks, geese, swans, herons and cranes); their large bodies make it difficult for them to manoeuver quickly enough to avoid an obstacle in time.”
See this link for more information on the negative environmental impacts of the Heartland line and other overhead high voltage transmission lines. Buried high voltage lines do not kill birds nor do they have any of the other negative environmental impacts of overhead lines.