Dennis Frehlich*, AltaLink’s interim President and CEO, suggested today that the dozens of ducks and other species recently found dead underneath an AltaLink 240 kV high voltage power line north of Pincher Creek is a “unique situation” (Calgary Herald). David McIntyre, the retired scientist who found the birds and estimated there to be hundreds of dead ducks killed by the same power line, disagreed and said the situation is not unique.
McIntyre said, “The ducks are there all the time. They will stay there as long as there is open water and they are on the open river. Ninety per cent of the waterfowl are below the dam so this is on the open Oldman River. There are dense concentrations of ducks, maybe 1,000-plus ducks.” After expressing concern about more birds getting killed by several other high voltage power lines being built and planned in the area by AltaLink, McIntyre said, “We have an existing line that is virtually a proven killer of waterfowl…So the writing is on the wall.”
Frehlich said, “We have 12,000 km of line across the province and we can’t mitigate everywhere. We’ve got a responsibility from a cost-effectiveness perspective.”
AltaLink’s overhead high voltage lines killing many birds is certainly not unique. There are hundreds of examples around Alberta. Based on bird kill statistics derived from other studies, it is possible that 1.5 million to 2.5 million birds are killed annually in Alberta by AltaLink’s 12,000 km of overhead high voltage lines.
Frehlich’s comments are typical of AltaLink’s perspective on the environmental impacts of their lines and specifically downplays the severity of bird deaths caused by overhead power lines. The CEO says AltaLink has a responsibility from a cost-effectiveness perspective. Translated, it means killing thousands of birds every day is just part of doing business for AltaLink, and they decide unilaterally that it might be too expensive to prevent all of these bird deaths. Let Albertans and electricity consumers decide.
A poll conducted by Leger Marketing in 2009 found that Albertans are very concerned about all the negative impacts of overhead high voltage lines and would be more than willing to pay more to have these lines buried, even if it did cost more to bury them. The fact is, buried lines are cheaper than overhead lines over the life of a line when you combine capital, maintenance and transmission loss costs. Burying high voltage lines essentially eliminates all of the negative impacts of overhead lines, including the killing of birds.
See this link for earlier coverage of the AltaLink bird death story.
* AltaLink’s permanent CEO, Scott Thon, is currently on loan to AltaLink’s scandal-plagued parent company, SNC-Lavalin, which is under multiple investigations for alleged fraud, bribery, money-laundering and moving money from one account to another. Charges have been laid in some cases.