By Collin Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A hearing into locations for a Medicine Hat power substation was held earlier this month as groups of Cypress County residents and the county itself testified.
The Alberta Utilities Commission is holding a virtual hearing this week on the city power company’s application to build Substation MHS11, which it says is needed to meet current and growing demand in the south of the city.
However, two separate groups of Cypress County residents living near potential sites – one near the entrance of Highway 3 to the city and another near Desert Blume – say the infrastructure, though built within city limits, will detract from their county lifestyle.
The proceedings heard lawyers from both groups question expert witnesses on the merits of the two sites, noise and wildlife impact studies.
It also heard from Cypress County, which says it isn’t taking position on the site selection, but wants mitigation efforts included in any approval and consideration in access plans.
Bishop, of Bishop Law, represents a group of residents of Desert Blume as well as Hatview dairy, which owns the land where the secondary site is proposed.
She said it was “atypical” for a municipality to take a position in such hearings, and implied the county can’t be seen as taking the side of one group of residents over another.
Officials with the county, which is registered as an observer, said it isn’t, but is present to help ensure due process for its residents.
“There was concern among ratepayers that their voice was not being heard … and it became a motion of council to (intervene),” said Kim Dalton, the county’s director of municipal services.
Consultant Ken Venner, of the BA Planning group, was asked by the county to evaluate impacts at the two sites. He indicated under questioning that there might be “less immediate, less dramatic” impact at a site nearer to Desert Blume.
“I don’t think there’s an argument that the infrastructure is not warranted and the jurisdiction demonstrates that they are willing to collaborate,” said Venner, citing the Cypress County-Medicine Hat-Redcliff tri-municipal agreement and other measures.
“At issue is that the two sites, both are affecting existing communities, and the outcome is that someone is going to be hurt by this.”
That is Cypress County’s stated position as well.
“Both the preferred and alternate sites negatively affect county residents … affecting their use and enjoyment of their properties,” said county planning officer Becky Mack.
She told the commission that the alternate site – in a hay field northeast of the intersection of Range Road 61A and S. Boundary Road – could be complicated by access onto the roadway, and the city should be responsible for changes or damage to the recently completed Rotary Trail walking path.
The city has said it will comply with any requirements or restrictions at either site if approved by the AUC.
City power planners say the station is required to regulate flow in the south region, and that will improve reliability throughout the city by giving more routes to redistribute power if lines and feeders are tripped off.
Additional power is also required to feed expected demand growth if large residential and commercial development proceeds in the southern area.