By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
Breaking their silence on the Central East Transmission Out (CETO) project, the Paintearth County Council have issued a position on the project.
Up to this point the County had been unwilling to issue a position on the proposed project as they were waiting on a response from ATCO addressing some council and public concerns.
County administration received the ATCO response on July 24th and released their position statement for the Aug. 20th meeting of council.
“It is the position of the County of Paintearth that greater preference be given to the northernmost routes for the Central East Transfer Out Project, however the council recognizes that the final decision on route selection will rest with ATCO, derivative of their motives to provide a safe, efficient and cost-effective project that will deliver capacity in the energy market for the province’s electrical needs,” read the position statement signed by County Reeve Stan Schulmeister.
Several factors have led the County to support the northern route.
Public safety, environmental, economic and social implications are all cited for choosing to support the northerly route.
Under public safety, the County identified that the northern route would, “Run within a pre-existing utility corridor along TWP 400, which is a designated major arterial road, meaning priority is given to keeping the roadway clear and accessible for all types of traffic.”
As well, the County has approached their fire service partners about how wildfires in the north would be fought, and have learned that firefighting priorities are firefighter safety, resident life safety, and finally preservation of property and nature.
There are mutual aid agreements in place between all the fire-service partners and Westmoreland Coal for firefighting services as well.
Opponents to the proposed project have cited environmental considerations as to why not to allow the project to proceed.
Of note, under the County Municipal Development Plan the area around the Tincherbray substation is listed as an environmentally sensitive area (ESA), however per the ATCO correspondence on July 24th, the most recent 2014 maps supplied by the province no longer list the area as being an ESA.
However, even with the area around Tincherbray not being a listed ESA, the County states that they, “Encourage the avoidance of creating new utility right-of-ways” and that using the northern route for the project, “Will make efficient use of existing utility corridors.”
The position statement also acknowledged that ATCO biologists are also scouting all proposed routes so that the route with least wildlife intrusion can be chosen.
Also affecting council’s decision to support the northern route are economic and social factors.
Of particular note in the position statement are concerns cited by a not-for-profit youth camp operated along the proposed southerly route.
The camp has issued previous letters to County council that if the southerly route is allowed to proceed there could be an impact on enrolment due to the, “Negative impact on the natural characteristics of the area.”
The northern route would reduce the potential impact on the camp.
The CETO project was proposed to the County early in 2019 by the Alberta Electrical Systems Operator (AESO), and the final route is expected to be before the Alberta Utilities Commission by the end of 2019.
If approved, the first stage of the CETO project should be operation by 2023.