Power line, again

By Bryan Alary
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It was a squeaker, but city council has agreed to look at the AltaLink power line relocation in the 2009 budget.

The narrow 4-3 majority came after council’s earlier proposal to have the province and AltaLink spend millions each to bury the line fell flat.

Monday’s decision does not guarantee anything, as the relocation could be defeated at budget time. Coun. Carol Watamaniuk pleaded with her peers just to get it that far.

“Please don’t shoot it down yet. Please let it go to the budget prtocess and let’s at least take a look properly there.”

Watamaniuk’s plea came after council shot down Coun. Lorie Garritty’s attempt to make option three – running the line along the east side of Ray Gibbon Drive – a specific business case in the budget.

Coun. Len Bracko argued strongly against the idea, calling the $1-million relocation a “waste of taxpayers’ dollars.” (The city would pay one third, or $450,000 with a contingency built in).

Bracko then dismissed the findings of the environmental report – written by an AltaLink staffer – that identified the AltaLink line as being in a “high risk” location for bird strikes. He claimed option three would make the problem worse, and mar the view of Lois Hole park east of Ray Gibbon Drive.

Watamaniuk was puzzled with Bracko’s statements. She noted option three was supported by the city’s office of environment, the province, AltaLink and council’s environmental advisory committee.

“[AltaLink is] so convinced they’re willing to put good dollars into this, as is Alberta Tourism, Recreation and Parks.”

Coun. Gareth Jones – who in the past has been far from convinced about any of the proposed options – provided the swing vote needed to revisit the issue at budget. Jones conceded he has doubts about the price tag, given the new alignment would cross the former Riel Park landfill. He called the area a “money pit.”

In addition to looking at the issue at budget, staff were instructed to look into possible federal or provincial grants as a way to pay for the city’s share.

Read more in Wednesday’s Gazette

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Elke Blodgett