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Morinville hopes for east route

Morinville residents hope a proposed power line will stick to the east side of Edmonton as planned instead of running through their backyard. About 110 people visited the R.C.

Morinville residents hope a proposed power line will stick to the east side of Edmonton as planned instead of running through their backyard.

About 110 people visited the R.C. Parish Centre in Morinville last Thursday for a second open house on the Heartland Transmission Project. That project, a 500-kilovolt double-circuit power line running to the industrial heartland region through Sturgeon County, will follow one of two possible routes.

Route one runs along Edmonton's eastern transportation utility corridor (TUC), then wriggles north to the heartland. Up to 20 kilometres of the route near Edmonton might run underground if it's technically feasible, according to line builders AltaLink and Epcor. Route two runs past Spruce Grove and hangs a right northwest of Morinville. There are no plans to bury the line along this route.

AltaLink and Epcor prefer the first route, says spokesperson Tim le Riche, and shall say so when they apply to the provincial regulator to build it. "There is no perfect route that has no impacts," he says, but this one had the fewest. The Morinville route is Plan B if the regulators reject the first route.

Let's hope they stick to Plan A, says Sturgeon County Coun. Jerry Kaup. "Utility corridors are created for a reason, and we hope they stick to the use it was created for."

Least overall impact

The Heartland line started with four possible routes, explains project spokesman Hudson Foley, which were then evaluated based on impacts to farms, homes, electricity, aesthetics, the environment and cost.

"When we did the math, it very quickly became apparent that the east route was just bad," says Foley, referring to a route that went far east of Edmonton. It had the highest number of homes, wetlands and historic resources in its path, and was the most expensive. Line proponents decided to rank the other three routes relative to that one.

The route that ran past St. Albert was next to go. It had the highest number of homes within 800 metres of the line, Foley says, and that's before you count the many condos expected to sprout up along it in the near future. It was also closer to homes overall and ran past sensitive natural areas such as River Lot 56.

The east TUC line was by far the best. "Over a third of the right-of-way is ready and waiting," Foley says, as it's already inside a TUC. "That's 30 per cent less line we have to go and force onto people's land."

It runs past the smallest number of residences, affects the least agricultural land and costs about 10 per cent less than the other routes. However, it does run past the second-greatest number of historic sites and schools and daycares.

The east TUC route also has the option of going underground, adds le Riche — an option studied by the proponents in response to public pressure. They have not looked at burying the Morinville line, as it does not have the land or population density issues of the east TUC one.

Morinville line criticized

Rita Soetaert was no fan of the Morinville route. "They're cutting our field in half," she says, referring to the proposed alignment. "How are we going to farm the other half?"

Nor are the line builders offering much compensation for use of her land. "They're just offering to lease. Our land value will go to nothing."

Many farmers are concerned over how the line's towers will affect them, Kaup says. "All these towers are going to be in the middle of quarter-sections … who's going to keep weeds out?" Others worry that the lines will hit their combines or interfere with GPS systems.

The two routes for the Heartland line are set to go before the Alberta Utilities Commission this spring. For details, call 1-888-441-7192.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: 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.
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