New power line routings through Sturgeon County are getting a cautiously optimistic response from county politicians, but Sturgeon Mayor Don Rigney wants to see an improved public process.
The Heartland Transmission Project, a group of power companies that are proposing to build a 500-kilovolt line from the Wabamun area to the industrial heartland, announced first and second choices last week for the line's construction. Both routes would cut through the county.
The project team culled from four possible routes down to one route they are listing as their preferred route and a second, alternate route.
The companies' preferred routing would run the line south of Edmonton from the Wabamun area and then into the transportation utility corridor on the east of Edmonton, past Sherwood Park and before turning north on a meandering path through Sturgeon County.
The alternate route would go north just east of Spruce Grove, then turn east, north of Morinville into the heartland.
Rigney said the project team picked the route it believes makes the most sense.
"We are encouraged that they have chosen the transportation utility corridor and the most direct route as the primary route."
Morinville mayor Lloyd Bertschi said his community is fine with the proposed routing and even the alternate route, which passes four kilometres north of Morinville and two-and-a-half kilometres from the town's western boundary.
"Any of the concerns we had raised in regards to the proximity to the town and the proposed sightlines really don't exist."
Rigney said while the routing is acceptable, he still wants the companies to pursue burying the line and questions the need for the line at all.
He said that, considering all Albertans are going to pay for these lines, there should be a better public process.
"What is wrong with putting people under oath and having the experts and the public come in and give testimony to an independent, impartial panel?"
The companies are promising to include a proposal to bury a 20-kilometre section of the line, provided a study currently under way finds that to be technically feasible, but Rigney said he wants the entire line buried.
He said an aboveground line would make it difficult for farmers to spray their fields and would break up farmland.
"It is just wrong to wander willy-nilly and fragment all this farmland just because we are out in the hinterland."
Rigney, who is also chair of the Alberta Industrial Heartland, said he doesn't think the heartland will need the power anytime soon and doesn't want to add an unnecessary cost to power bills.
"Our big industries are saying this is going to make us uncompetitive, some of them are saying we are going to shut our doors and some of them have moved out already."
Guy Bridgeman, senior vice-president of planning and development for Epcor, one of the companies involved in the project, said they remain confident that even with fewer upgraders the lines are needed.
"Even under a low growth scenario in the heartland region it looks like the infrastructure is going to be needed."