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Family has long battle with utility company Fortis over power lines

Click to play video: 'Family has long battle with utility company Fortis over power lines citing safety reasons' Family has long battle with utility company Fortis over power lines citing safety reasons
A farming family in Cardston has been caught in an ongoing battle with their electric utility company Fortis over the placement of power lines. The family said the company had been trying to have the power lines moved to run beside their grain bins, which they believe to be a safety concern. Taz Dhaliwal reports – Jul 30, 2020

A Cardston farm family had been in an ongoing dispute with their utility provider, FortisAlberta, over the placement of power lines for many months.

The situation began when a neighbouring resident complained to Fortis saying they wanted the power lines moved off of their property for “safety reasons.”

The MacCallum family said Fortis then reached out to them back in March and said the power lines would be moved from their neighbour’s property to run right beside their existing bin yard.

Read more: SaskPower urges farmers to exercise caution during harvest

“We said ‘we don’t really want a power line there for safety’ and he said, ‘well, if you really don’t want a power line there, we’re going to move this one anyway because it’s on the neighbour’s land illegally.'”

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“We didn’t quite understand that. He said ‘if you just don’t want a power line, we won’t put one in for you and you just won’t have one,'” Shawn McCallum said. Shawn’s father owns the farm.

“It’s basically a scare tactic. They say we won’t have power if we don’t put it where they want,” his father Roger McCallum said.

The family said they then requested the lines be buried as they felt it would be the safest option and would not interfere with their augers as they transport their grain.

The family said they didn’t hear from Fortis until three months later when the utility company called them on the phone.

According to the family, Fortis eventually told them there was no funding available to bury the power lines.

“Any farmer would never want a power line that close to their bin yards,” Shawn said.

“We chose that spot cause there were no power lines and it was a nice spot to be able to expand the bin yards, a nice spot to just be able to have safety,” he added.

 The MacCallum family said they were not given clarification from Fortis on how much distance there needs to be between power lines and grain bins when they inquired several times, which was their biggest concern in this case.

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In a statement to Global News on Thursday, Fortis said:

“The clearance requirement between grain bins and electrical facilities is not currently defined in Alberta or Canadian electrical codes.

“It’s recently been recognized as missing and our course of action is to develop our own clearance guideline,” the statement went on to say.

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Another statement by Fortis said there were plans in the works to address the issue.

“We are currently preparing an option to address customer service and safety concerns to the customer’s satisfaction,” the statement read.

When Global News last spoke to the family late Thursday afternoon, they said Fortis had informed them they would be coming out to the farm next week to bury the lines.

The family said they are happy and relieved Fortis finally reached that decision, however, they just wish it hadn’t taken several months and attempts at communication with the company for them to arrive at that conclusion.

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