In follow up to earlier RETA posts about one of AltaLink’s overhead high voltage power lines near Pincher Creek killing birds, AltaLink continues to mislead the public by suggesting the recent bird deaths are an isolated incident (Pincher Creek Voice, Edmonton Journal).
Following the revelation in early January by David McIntyre of dozens of dead ducks found underneath a new AltaLink high voltage power line north of Pincher Creek, AltaLink launched an investigation and found 345* birds killed along a short stretch of the line. Most (244) of the birds were mallards and 1 was a gray partridge. AltaLink has attributed the bird collision deaths to severe weather conditions, and an AltaLink public relations spokesperson said, “Our indication is that it’s an isolated incident”.
However, local retired scientist David McIntyre disagreed with AltaLink’s story, pointing out,“These ducks had died in multiple incidents over a period of time. They didn’t die in one incident.” He was also quoted as saying, “It’s crystal clear to me it was multiple collisions. There may have been many incidents. Unless it lands on someone’s doorstep, we may never hear about it.”
In support of McIntyre’s assertion that this was not an isolated incident as erroneously suggested by AltaLink, the Pincher Creek Voice received numerous reports from other local individuals who had seen dead birds near the new power line over a 2-month period. Tina Jay Spear said, “It’s such a sad sight to see. Every day on my way to work. There seems to be more and more each time. We saw a lot throughout November and December. We thought one day it was raining birds, on one of our drives a couple of ducks fell right in front of us as we were driving. Scared me, what a sight to see.” Dylon Barber wrote, “I remember driving to the Heritage acres area in December and seeing all the dead ducks too. They were all over the place.” Patrick Bad-Eagle said, “The other day me and my wife were driving by there going home, we seen over 12 dead birds alongside the ditch.” Robert Dale Plante wrote, “I drive past there everyday going to and from work, this has been going on since late November. the ducks are down in the valley and they fly up the coulees. Once they come up over the road hwy 785 on extremely windy days, they get blown back into the power lines. Everyday we have +70 km/hr winds you will see the dead ducks. This has not been one or two events, this is a daily issue on extremely windy days.”
McIntyre was also concerned about the impact of the new line on eagle migrations in spring when “thousands of Golden Eagles migrate up the crest of the Livingstone Range”. He suggests eagles will be attracted to dead ducks as a food source, “And now it’s more than a dead duck issue”. He said the line shouldn’t have been built in the area in the first place, considering there are thousands of waterfowl that fly back and forth between the Oldman River and adjacent grainfields, right across the path of AltaLink’s new high voltage lines. McIntyre went on to suggest AltaLink needs to start looking at underground lines.
This particular story is a good example of the extent to which overhead high voltage power lines kill birds, and the extent to which transmission companies such as AltaLink (and its environmental consultant Stantec) will downplay the significance of the impacts of overhead high voltage lines on birds and other elements of the environment. AltaLink and Stantec were warned, before the line was built, about the impacts of the new line on birds in the Oldman River area, but chose to ignore those warnings.
AltaLink and Stantec consistently ignore environmental data and potential impacts of overhead lines on birds…but then why not? As of 2008, the Alberta Government no longer requires formal Environmental Impact Assessments for any high voltage power lines built in Alberta. This is referred to as the “Alberta Advantage”…at least for the electricity transmission industry.
See this link for more information on the negative impacts of overhead power lines on the environment, and this link for the benefits, including cost, of burying the lines.
*It is a well known fact that dead bird counts underneath power lines are an underestimate of the actual number of bird deaths because many birds that hit overhead high voltage lines end up falling to the ground some distance from the power line, other birds injured as they collide with lines crawl away and die somewhere else, many birds killed are eaten by predators before they can be counted, and many dead birds are simply not found due to ground cover. All of these factors consistently result in underestimates of the actual number of birds killed by colliding with overhead power lines.