ATCO proposes a transmission line to replace Palisades power plant
Jasper National Park is threatened by a proposed transmission line that will put unacceptable pressure on the park’s most critical wildlife habitat and adversely affect the wild beauty of the Athabasca Valley. The line would also be exposed to the dangers of extreme weather events leading to possible power outages in Jasper.
The Palisades natural gas-powered generating plant is made up of a combination of gas turbines and diesel generators that produce electricity for the Jasper area. Some of the generating equipment is at the end of its useful life and other equipment will need to be retired within the next decade. As a solution the power company, ATCO, favours an overhead line to connect Jasper to the Alberta grid; it would run 45 km from a transition tie-in at the east park boundary to a new substation replacing the old power plant.
The line, carried on 480 power poles would follow the Athabasca Valley running through the centre of the park. This is a critical wildlife corridor and winter habitat for both prey and predators. Its forests and numerous wetlands provide important nesting habitat and a flyway for summer migrant birds on their way to arctic and prairie breeding grounds. But transmission lines pose a real danger, killing as many as 41 million birds across Canada each year.
As Dave Hatto, Vice Chair of the JEA points out: “ATCO’s environmental impact assessment admits that even with mitigations there would still be habitat loss, displacement or alteration of wildlife movement patterns and increased mortality risk. This is unacceptable in a national park and world heritage site.”
Power poles up to 19m high will detract from park visitor experience and the stunning views of a still virtually unspoiled mountain landscape. ATCO is also planning to log almost 27,000 trees more than 2.5m high on its right-of-way.
At a recent four-day hearing held by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in Calgary experts pointed out that rebuilding the present generation plant would be cheaper and prove more reliable than an exposed line susceptible to windstorms and forest fires. This solution would also preserve the integrity of the park’s wildlife habitat and leave the views unspoiled.
A decision by the AUC is expected sometime this spring.
Dave Hatto 780-852-9733 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill Seaton 780-852-4152 email@example.com