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Power in Prince Edward Island

At the eleventh hour and at the brink of hard-won success, Maritime Electric "ran the numbers" and decided the bypass they worked with us to secure was too expensive after all. At a meeting on Friday, April 20, I was told that the differential cost was about $75,000. This is approximately 2% of the cost for the entire transmission line expansion, estimated at about $3.75 million. According to government sources, it is less than one half of the amount they spent on a botanical analysis and environmental assessment process (required by provincial policy) to safeguard rare flora and ecologically unstable wetlands/streams. Less than $100, 000 to save a community, and Maritime Electric bows out of a year-long commitment. It beggars the imagination.

Maritime Electric, a subsidiary of the international power company Fortis, has put up high-voltage power lines that seriously compromise what may very well be the most beautiful place in all of Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. The house near Souris where my mother lives sits on top of a hill overlooking the winding Souris River and Northumberland Strait. She is surrounded by forests, farm fields and rolling hills—with what was, no doubt, one of the most spectacular views on the entire Island. More importantly, she is surrounded by good neighbours, all of whom I know to be good people, and most of whom I have known my whole life. I have grown up and live in the nearby capital city, but I still consider these people my neighbours, even though I see many of them only a handful of times a year.

My neighbours and I are caught in the middle of a high-voltage transmission line expansion, built to service a new wind energy installation at the eastern tip of the province. Fifty-five foot poles now tower over a cluster of homes on the Grant Road hill, where my mother’s house is located, and wind down the road through the families who live at the junction of the Souris River Road and the New... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Maritime Electric, a subsidiary of the international power company Fortis, has put up high-voltage power lines that seriously compromise what may very well be the most beautiful place in all of Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. The house near Souris where my mother lives sits on top of a hill overlooking the winding Souris River and Northumberland Strait.  She is surrounded by forests, farm fields and rolling hills—with what was, no doubt, one of the most spectacular views on the entire Island.  More importantly, she is surrounded by good neighbours, all of whom I know to be good people, and most of whom I have known my whole life.  I have grown up and live in the nearby capital city, but I still consider these people my neighbours, even though I see many of them only a handful of times a year.

My neighbours and I are caught in the middle of a high-voltage transmission line expansion, built to service a new wind energy installation at the eastern tip of the province. Fifty-five foot poles now tower over a cluster of homes on the Grant Road hill, where my mother’s house is located, and wind down the road through the families who live at the junction of the Souris River Road and the New Zealand Road, at Gowan Brae, which is situated at the head of the River. The poles are very tall, and have thick high voltage power lines strung across them. From our perspective, they cut through our community like a barbed wire fence. Many in our community have serious concerns, not only about the aesthetic impact of this infrastructure, but the health hazards posed by the electro-magnetic fields to our families, and the significant devaluation of our properties the transmission lines bring with them.

It is surprising that the Prince Edward Island government allows these inappropriate power line incursions into rural residential areas. Certainly they have turned a blind eye to our efforts to keep them out. Our community in question is small, which is one explanation. Certainly none of us are wealthy, which may provide another.

What makes our situation so particularly devastating is it was not necessary. My neighbours and family have actively participated, in person and in writing, in a year-long engagement process with the utility and the provincial government. One year ago, Maritime Electric committed to pursuing a bypass away from the homes on Grant Road/Gowan Brae when they planned this new stretch of the transmission grid. The province and the utility, partners in this wind endeavour, quelled community concern by promising to pursue an alternate route—the lines would still come through our community, but they would build along a bypass away from our homes. For one year, the onus was on our community to come up with a route. Guided by criteria outlined by the utility, with the cooperation of several utility employees, we have persevered through some significant setbacks, and have recently succeeded in securing agreement with four very kind local landowners. The stunning generosity and community-mindedness of these cooperative people has been the one bright spot in an otherwise dark and frustrating process.

At the eleventh hour and at the brink of hard-won success, Maritime Electric “ran the numbers” and decided the bypass they worked with us to secure was too expensive after all. At a meeting on Friday, April 20, I was told that the differential cost was about $75,000. This is approximately 2% of the cost for the entire transmission line expansion, estimated at about $3.75 million. According to previous conversations with government employees, this number is less than one half of the amount they spent on a botanical analysis and environmental assessment process (required by provincial policy) to safeguard rare flora and ecologically unstable wetlands/streams.

Less than $100, 000 to save and protect a community is a marginal cost when compared to the investment involved. The utility's decision to bow out, after a year-long commitment and for such a small investment in goodwill, beggars the imagination. The province's refusal to acknowledge our problem is astounding, to put it mildy.

The first iteration of this blog introduction, which I shared with both the utility and government, was extremely angry. I have decided, however, that my anger over what has transpired is beside the point, as larger issues are at stake. As someone who has been close to this issue since last November, I have become aware of very problematic "power relations" in Prince Edward Island. So, I’m going to blog my way into the public domain with this story. I intend to accomplish several things over the life of this blog:

1. This blog will document the story of the abortive Grant Road/Gowan Brae bypass, and show how “efforts to demonstrate goodwill” on the part of Maritime Electric were, in light of this incredible outcome, insufficient to protect rural homes caught in this expansion. Clearly, more than "goodwill" is needed.

2. This blog will critique stated rationales for abandoning the people of Grant Road/Gowan Brae put forth by the utility, and it will systematically analyse the government policies and practices that allow them to do this.

3. This blog will outline the failure of the provincial government to provide leadership and advocacy to our rural community--one of several rural communities on Prince Edward Island bearing the largely hidden burden of high-profile energy initiatives.

4. This blog will provide a forum for discussing what may be called the "inconvenient truths" associated with power line construction. How exactly are they rationalized? Why do rural communities find themselves so disempowered in these situations?

5. Even if we in Grant Road/Gowan Brae ultimately fail to protect our homes, this blog will help other communities. Through the information relayed here, they will be able to learn from our experiences, and be alert, ready and able to provide effective grassroots resistance when the power lines come down their road. The failure to secure a Grant Road/Gowan Brae bypass is a bellwether event that bears close consideration for everyone with a rural home, or anyone who cares about rural PEI.

The way my late father, Dave Mullally, told the story, he was out hunting rabbits one fall day when he came out of the woods at the top of the Grant Road, and “just couldn’t get over the view” of the far-off town, the river, the ocean and the rolling potato fields. My father loved Prince Edward Island. He and my mother, Paulette, bought a lot and a piece of this beautiful place from the O’Keefe family in 1973. They built a house and spent their lives as part of the community on the River, raising five of us in the home at the top of the hill, where my mother Paulette and brother Conor still live.

Last Sunday, April 15, around the time when Fortis/Maritime Electric “ran their numbers” and decided 2% of an infrastructure budget was too great a price to pay to be a good corporate citizen, would have been my father’s 62nd birthday.

6. This blog is a birthday present to his memory.


Source: http://powerpei.blogspot.co...

APR 22 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/8448-power-in-prince-edward-island
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