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    Categories: Local News

Power line stirs up Sturgeon

Sturgeon County residents say a proposed 500-kilovolt power line should be built along the east side of Edmonton instead of through their backyards.

AltaLink and Epcor officials have been polling Edmonton-area residents in the last few weeks about the Heartland Transmission Project. The project, first proposed in 2007, would construct a 500-kilovolt power line to hook the Industrial Heartland region to the Wabamun power plant.

Upgrader construction means that the heartland will need more transmission lines in the near future, says Neil Brausen, spokesperson for the Alberta Electrical System Operator. Last year, the group (which manages Alberta’s power system) recommended the construction of a 500-kilovolt line that would go along either the east or west side of Edmonton.

“Based on the information and analysis we had done at that point, we did say that our preferred alternative would be on the east side of Edmonton,” he says, as it would be the shortest, cheapest route. His group did not recommend a specific route, however, as the line builders had not mapped one out.

Green or blue?

Maps sent to local residents show four possible routes for the line. Option blue runs from the Wabamun plant north to Morinville and then east to the heartland. Option yellow follows the west leg of the Anthony Henday’s Transportation Utility Corridor around St. Albert, while option green follows the east leg past Sherwood Park. Option pink heads east to Cooking Lake before hanging a left to the heartland.

All four lines end up in Sturgeon County where they pass through a rat’s maze of possible routes north of St. Albert. While these are all viable paths, says AltaLink spokesman Scott Schreiner, only one will be chosen.

There haven’t been many complaints about the blue route near Morinville, says Mayor Lloyd Bertschi. This route would come within a kilometre of the town’s northeast corner.

“If we could get a line between Morinville and Legal that would help in the long term,” Bertschi said, as it could attract business to the region. Ideally, he says, the line should follow a current or future transportation utility corridor to minimize its effects on landowners.

Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner says he’s heard a slightly different message from people living near the blue line. “They don’t want it,” he says. Personally, he thought it made more sense to follow the green route as it was shorter and ran through a utility corridor. “We have a TUC and we should use it,” he says. “There’s no TUC on the [far]west side of Edmonton.”

Wayne Groot says his potato farm lies next to the yellow, blue and green routes. “It’ll end up very close to where I live.” The lines could interfere with his farm’s irrigation and crop-dusting equipment, he says, and would also be an eyesore. “There’s nothing positive about it.”

Groot, whose farm is also near the proposed Petro-Canada upgrader, says he’s tired of being inundated by heavy industry. “This electrical line is just another thing that will affect our quality of life.”

AltaLink and Epcor officials plan to hold open houses on the routes next month. The Morinville museum currently hosts an information station on the project. If approved, the line would be complete by around 2013.

All Albertans will be paying for these lines, Horner says, and he encouraged all residents to make their concerns heard. Alberta would need these and other new lines in the future, he added, as its power needs grow. “At the end of the day when you turn the switch, you want the lights to come on.”

Maps of the proposed routes are available at www.heartlandtransmission.ca.

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.