West Edmonton residents disappointed after EPCOR receives go-ahead for transmission line upgrade

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WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta Utilities Commission has approved a transmission line upgrade in west Edmonton, which EPCOR says is needed to meet demand. As Julia Wong explains, the move is disappointing for Lynwood residents who fought long and hard against it – May 26, 2020

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is giving the green light to a west Edmonton transmission line upgrade.

READ MORE: West Edmonton residents fired up over proposed EPCOR transmission line

Residents in the Lynwood neighbourhood say they are disappointed by the decision, which would see 72,000-volt aerial transmission lines installed along 156 Street and, in some cases, metres from homes.

EPCOR says the upgrade is needed to meet electricity demand in the city’s west end. The project would run roughly 10 kilometres from the Poundmaker station to the Meadowlark substation down 156 Street, along the Whitemud and north on 190 Street.

A map of the preferred and alternate routes for the West Edmonton transmission line upgrade.
A map of the preferred and alternate routes for the West Edmonton transmission line upgrade. Courtesy/AUC

But Lynwood residents say they have concerns over safety and the visual aesthetic of the poles, which would be up to 26 metres tall and up to one metre wide; they were advocating for the line to go underground along 156 Street, which would have cost an additional $3 million.

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The ruling by the AUC states that the commission considers the visual impact to “be incremental to, and not substantially different from what currently exists,” referring to existing distribution lines. It states that the additional cost to move the line underground on 156 Street “is not justified.”

It further states that safety measures are already in place near a playground, which sits beside an existing distribution line that would be upgraded to a transmission line, and that the new line would not pose additional hazards.

Santwana Carstensen-Sinha has lived in Lynwood for 20 years.

“We’re still worried about the danger to our kids and our neighbourhood, having these high voltage lines running straight through our neighbourhood and past our school and our daycares and playgrounds.”

Carstensen-Sinha said that the comparison between distribution lines and transmission lines is a misnomer.

“It’s comparing apples and oranges. [Distribution] lines are about the same size as a tree. Transmission lines are much larger — they’re metallic and they’re much taller. It’s a very different visual effect,” she said.

David Arnold, who has lived in Lynwood for close to 30 years, also expressed disappointment in the AUC decision.

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“Lynwood is the only section of this proposed line where there’s no other option than to go down 156 Street. Aesthetically, it’s a disaster because these wooden poles are not good looking anyway,” he said.

“Quite a few of these poles are going to be in people’s front yards. The first thing they’ll see when they come out of the front door will be a large monolith at the end of their grass before the sidewalk.”

With the AUC decision, the group of residents have exhausted all their options.

“This is basically the end of the line for us,” Arnold said.

In a statement, an EPCOR spokesperson said the utility supports the AUC’s decision and plans to move forward with construction in the summer.

Construction is expected to be completed in fall 2021.

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