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Transmission Line Creating Controversy

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Construction continues on the 345-kilometre, $130-million Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. (MATL) electrical transmission line from north of Lethbridge to Great Falls.

Most of the power poles from Cutbank, Montana to the border have been installed, said Bob Williams, a regulatory officer for MAT LinCalgary. Onlythreetosix kilometres are left to build. In some stretches, the conductor wires have been strung between poles.

Work continues in Alberta from the international border to Highway 61, a stretch of just more than 60 kilometres. Most of the land right of way has been secured in that stretch. MATL is ready to start immediately north of Highway 61. Some of the survey work has been done to identify route and pole locations.

Williams said 100 per cent of the transmission line right of way has been secured south of Highway 61, either through direct landowner agreement or with an Alberta Surface Rights and Compensation Board right of entry order. About 95 per cent of the right of way north of Highway 61 is secure.

“We are still signing up agreements, even last week,” said Williams.

He said talks continue with other landowners, and if it appears an agreement can be reached, MATL will hold off expediting a right of entry order “as long as it can.”

But a different picture is painted by a representative of Milk River farmer Les Hoytos, who has been fighting the electrical transmission line for five years.

His long fight may soon come to an end, said Daryl Bennett of Taber with My Landman Group Inc., a land agent representing many producers along the MATL route, including the district west of Milk River.

Bennett said he has learned RCMP have been asked to help civil enforcement officers enforce MAT L’sAlbertaSurfaceRightsand Compensation Board order that gives the company the right to enter Hoytos’s land to build that portion of the line.

In a letter to the Alberta RCMP commissioner and Milk River detachment officers, Bennett said, “Although MATL admits that it has handled the land access process badly, it is determined to enforce the rights that its Right of Entry Order (ROE) allows.

“Mr. Hoytos has been very stressed out as a result of the five years that he, along with his neighbours, has spent fighting this proposed power line. In fact, this gentleman is at the end of his life and feels that property rights are worth dying for. Hopefully, such a consequence can be prevented.”

Bennett also asked the RCMP to pay careful attention to the board’s order.

Bennett said he has pictures to show that MATL’s contractor from Montana is entering the lands under chinook conditions and causing extreme rutting.

“Some neighbours have weed and crop disease problems and we don’t want weeds and crop diseases transferred onto this gentleman’s property,” said Bennett. “Evidently, the Surface Rights Board thought this was a reasonable request and condition and therefore included it in the ROE, even though MATL disagreed.”

Bennett said clarity on the right of entry order is paramount.

“If MATL enters the lands withoutconsideringtheRO Erestrictions and conditions on Hoytos’s land, it could be found guilty of trespass,” he said.

“I’ve assured the gentleman that in the end, the process will work out right, but he questions a regulatory system that ensures industry’s rights are given priority,” said Bennett. “This power line isn’t even about really supplying electricity to Albertans. It’s mainly about exporting electricity to Americans, so you can see why some get irate over losing private property to companies just looking after their own private profit. It might be different if this was a public utility serving Albertans.”

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