AltaLink Proposes Another Power Line Through Conservation Area in Colchester

RETA AESO logoThe Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and AltaLink are proposing yet another overhead high voltage power line through the Colchester community – this time, a double circuit 138 kV line to run from Anthony Henday Drive East to a substation south of Cooking Lake, southeast of Edmonton. AltaLink and the AESO call this most recent project the Cooking Lake 138 kV Transmission Line and Substation Upgrade.

The double circuit 500 kV Heartland transmission line, the largest in Alberta, is still under construction through the Sherwood Park and Edmonton Greenbelts and through the Colchester community – and already the AESO and AltaLink are proposing yet another high voltage line in the area. The AESO, AltaLink, EPCOR, Alberta Government and the RETA property value impact imageRETA Health hazard imageAlberta Utilities Commission (AUC) ignored the volumes of data presented to them that clearly indicated the negative health, safety, environmental, property value and visual impacts of the Heartland line. The same 5 players had clearly agreed well before any public consultation processes began that the Heartland line would be built in the Sherwood Park and Edmonton Greenbelts. The Alberta Government had even passed legislation (Bill 50) in this regard.

Not only was the decision made to build the overhead Heartland line where the most people would be directly and adversely impacted (5,280 homes within 800 m), but the decision-makers refused to seriously consider burying a portion of the line where the most residents would be impacted. Colchester Elementary School was one of many casualties of this ill-founded decision, and now sits empty because parents refused to expose their young children to the negative health impacts of electromagnetic fields and the corona effect from the Heartland line located only about 140 m from the school grounds.

So…what do residents – farmers and acreage owners – located along the most recently-proposed 138 kV line to Cooking Lake have to look forward to? They can look forward to the same kind of so-called public consultation processes and AUC hearing that residents along the Heartland line currently under construction were subjected to between 2009 and RETA AUC logo2012. Many directly impacted residents have described that entire process, including the AUC hearing, as “theatre”…that is, an attempt by the electricity operator (AESO), the electricity regulator (AUC), the Alberta Government and the transmission companies (AltaLink and EPCOR) to make the public believe that their input and submissions meant something – when in fact they did not.

Some landowners and homeowners located along the 3 proposed routes of the Cooking Lake 138 kV Transmission Line and Substation Upgrade were sent packages of information in August by AltaLink, informing them of the project. All landowners located within 800 m of the proposed routes were supposed to receive this information because they have the potential to be directly and adversely impacted – many did not receive any information at all. This is typical and indicative of how seriously transmission companies like AltaLink take their obligations to those who will be negatively impacted by their overhead high voltage power lines. The same occurred during the Heartland public consultation process where hundreds of directly impacted households were not contacted or were provided with erroneous information by AltaLink and EPCOR.

One of the 3 proposed routes for the new 138 kV line would run from the southeast corner of Anthony Henday East in an east-southeasterly direction to a substation a short distance RETA environmental impact imagesouth of Cooking Lake. This route would be the longest of the 3 proposed routes (and therefore presumably the most expensive) and would traverse the majority of the Bretona Pond wetland complex. Bretona Pond is a designated conservation area and Buck-for-Wildlife Area. Strathcona County’s Outdoor Master Plan lists the pond as a significant natural feature, primarily as a productive wetland for nesting, moulting, staging and migrating waterfowl*. Logic would suggest that this route would be the least appropriate; however, past routing decisions for overhead high voltage lines in Alberta have certainly not been based on logic nor on the facts.

The routing of overhead power lines in Alberta will continue to be based on whatever the AESO, AUC, Alberta Government and transmission companies decide – not on the basis of facts or least impact, and not on the basis of public input. Unfortunately, the same players refuse to seriously consider burying high voltage power lines to minimize or eliminate the many negative impacts of overhead lines.

It is also worth noting that the justification provided by the AESO and AltaLink for building this new 138 kV line is, “This area has grown significantly in recent years and the demand for electricity has increased.” The area to be serviced by this new line has in fact not grown significantly in recent years, nor has the demand for electricity in this area increased. In other words, the line is not needed. However, why should this line be any different than many of the other high voltage lines recently approved, but shown not to be necessary (e.g., Heartland Transmission Project, Western Alberta Transmission Line, Eastern Alberta Transmission Line). Transmission companies in Alberta receive a minimum guaranteed annual return of 9% on transmission infrastructure, regardless of the extent to which the lines are energized. For example, the double circuit 500 kV Heartland line will be energized to only 15% of its total capacity.

* See this link for information on the negative impacts of overhead power lines on birds, and this link for information on negative impacts on the environment. About 174 million birds are killed every year in the U.S. alone by crashing into overhead power lines. 

RETA Bird Kill photo

~ by RETA on December 22, 2013.

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