Sturgeon County – After a one hour in-camera briefing Tuesday morning on the Heartland Transmission Project (HTP), Sturgeon County Council voted unanimously to commit up to $400,000 to participate in the Alberta Utility Commission’s (AUC) quasi-judicial hearing set to take place in the spring of 2011.
The financial commitment is a $150,000 increase from the $250,000 County Council had previously committed to the Heartland Transmission Project hearing process.
The controversial power project seeks to run power lines from power stations west of Edmonton into Alberta’s Industrial Heartland where it is anticipated upgraders will eventually be built.
The County’s overall objective in intervening is to ensure the AUC approves the project’s preferred route, which would run on the east side of Edmonton, north along the Anthony Henday and on into Sturgeon County from the south. An alternate route takes a western approach that would enter the county in the Calahoo and Villeneuve area before heading north of Morinville.
“It’s clearly the outcome we’d like to see and what we’re trying to influence,” said Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney. “I think that’s our primary objective with what we did today and with the money we’re spending.”
The mayor said the Heartland Transmission Project is a significant issue to Sturgeon County residents, both to those directly affected by the proposed routes and to those distant from the proposed power lines.
“It will affect everybody, either by direct impact or through rate changes,” Rigney said, noting council was presented with a number of options on how best to proceed, including some alternate routing for the power lines. “We felt given the significance of this issue to our ratepayers that we had to expend these kinds of monies and make this kind of commitment to make sure that our residents were fully represented in this, we were fully able to participate, and we were able to do the maximum to influence the outcome to their benefit.”
To realize the maximum influence Rigney and County Council is looking to achieve, Sturgeon County will have up to $400,000 at its disposal to hire external consultants and legal support for the intervention, monitoring and engaging in the application process through the remainder of 2010 and through to the completion of the hearings, as late as the summer of 2011.
Rigney said he was aware there would be an effect on County residents regardless of which route is ultimately approved by the AUC.
“I think we’re always going to try and make sure that anything that impacts our residents is done in the least disagreeable fashion possible,” Rigney said. “Obviously, whatever we do, we’d like to have the least impact on our residents – their health and their wellbeing, the values of their homes and their property. We feel that’s best achieved by spending this money to do the best we can to influence the AUC to choose the primary route.”
Location not the issue for some residents
But while Sturgeon County Council is prepared to advocate the interests of County residents by pushing for the HTP’s preferred route, some county residents are opposed to the mere idea of the project.
Colleen Boddez, a spokesperson with the Sturgeon Blueline Group said she believed the issue was not about what route the AUC selects but about the need for the power lines in the first place.
“Our position is not to push it on any line,” Boddez said. “Our position is about the needs and the legislation. To have Sturgeon County represented is not a bad thing. We think that’s a good thing. But I’m not going to say I’m glad to hear they want it on either line. We just don’t want the power line. If Sturgeon County can help in this procedure and hearing – that would be great.”
The Sturgeon Blue Line Group will be holding a public meeting at the Morinville Parish Hall Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. Boddez said Keith Wilson and Joe Anglin, two of Alberta’s most informed experts on the HTP issue, are scheduled to speak at the meeting.