AUC Jurisdiction – Historical Resources
In this decision, the AUC approved applications from AltaLink Management Ltd. (“AltaLink”) to decommission and salvage portions of transmission lines 80L and 716L.
AltaLink filed applications with the AUC for approval to salvage approximately 24 kilometers of 138-kilvolt (“kV”) Transmission Line 80L and approximately 36 kilometers of 138-kV Transmission Line 716L, as well as to salvage one 138-kV circuit breaker, and its associated components, from the Wetaskiwin 40S Substation. AltaLink also applied on behalf of TransAlta to salvage the portions of Transmission Line 716L located within I.R. 137 and I.R. 138.
AltaLink explained that the Alberta Electric System Operator (“AESO”) had determined that portions of transmission lines 80L and 716L would no longer be required following the completion of facilities described in the Red Deer Area Transmission Development. The AUC approved the needs identification document for the Red Deer Area Transmission Development, which included the discontinuance of transmission lines 80L and 716L, on April 10, 2012.
AltaLink stated that it was directed by Alberta Culture and Tourism to consult with 15 First Nations whose membership could include descendants from the disbanded Sharphead Reserve. It provided detailed information about its consultation with those First Nations, and it summarized their requests in relation to the Sharphead Burial Site.
Sharphead Burial Site
In its application, AltaLink identified that one structure to be salvaged was located within a site with significant historical and cultural importance. AltaLink stated that the Sharphead Burial Site, which is located on private land, was under the direction of Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women (“ACMSW”), pursuant to its authority under the Historical Resources Act. AltaLink indicated that the site was believed to contain one or more human remains beneath Structure 827, and it had been designated Historical Resources Value Level 4.
AltaLink stated that it applied for and received Historical Resources Act (“HRA”) approval from ACMSW for the portion of the project in the vicinity of the Sharphead Burial Site. The salvage method proposed by AltaLink for Structure 827, and approved by ACMSW, is different from how AltaLink proposed to salvage other structures along the transmission lines to allow for the removal of the structure in a manner that would cause as little disturbance as possible to any potential human remains or archeological materials.
The AUC determined that the technical and environmental aspects of the project met the AUC requirements. The AUC also found that the applications were consistent with the need previously identified by the AESO.
The AUC found that, other than issues related to the Sharphead Burial Site and Structure 827 and issues raised by the Matejaks in relation to how AltaLink conducted its participant involvement program, respectively, there were no outstanding technical or environmental concerns specific to the decommission and salvage of the lines or substation, nor were there any outstanding public or industry concerns.
Sharphead Burial Site and Structure 827
The AUC found that, concerning the Sharphead Burial Site, AltaLink, the Matejkas (the owners of the lands) and the First Nations who were consulted agreed that any human remains underlying Structure 827 must not be disturbed, and the site itself was to be protected and respected. Subject to that primary consideration, Transmission Line 80L should be salvaged and ultimately the lands should be reclaimed.
The matters upon which the Matejkas and AltaLink did not agree concerned how to affect both outcomes, with the Matejkas seeking compensation and additional measures and relief in terms of monitoring the site and subdividing the land.
In this unique situation, the AUC noted that its discretion in the matter is limited by the authority granted to and exercised by the ACMSW under the HRA.
Each of AltaLink and the Matejkas had filed separate HRA applications with ACMSW. ACMSW had issued separate approvals with conditions specific to the activities proposed to be undertaken by each of AltaLink and the Matejkas. As pointed out by AltaLink, the Matejkas were asking the AUC to impose conditions on AltaLink’s HRA approval that duplicate those issued to the Matejkas for agricultural operations, despite the fact that AltaLink had its own HRA approval with conditions relating to decommissioning and salvage operations at the site.
The AUC acknowledged ACMSW’s authority in relation to the historic resources that were present at the Sharphead Burial Site, and approved the salvage method stipulated in Approval HRA-4490-17-0002-0005 issued to AltaLink. The AUC noted it would not impose alternative or additional requirements related to the protection of the historic resources; doing so would be outside of the AUC’s jurisdiction and constitute an unwarranted intrusion on ACMSW’s expertise and authority. The AUC further noted it did not have the authority to order that compensation be paid to the Matejkas for the loss of use of the Sharphead Burial Site or for the Matejkas’ time and effort spent attempting to resolve their concerns. The AUC advised it did not have the authority to order the subdivision of the land, or to require that a site management plan to preserve the historic resource be created or that its execution be funded by AltaLink.
Because AltaLink was required to apply for a reclamation certificate from Alberta Environment and Parks once the site has been reclaimed, the AUC found it preferable to leave any decisions about post-reclamation site monitoring to that authority.
While the Matejkas’ desire to protect the site and the manner they proposed to manage it over the long term appeared to be well-considered, the AUC noted that its role in relation to the historic resources at the Sharphead Burial Site and its authority in this proceeding does not extend to making the orders sought by the Matejkas. The AUC nevertheless encouraged all of the parties, including the interested First Nations, to continue efforts to find a suitable long term solution that protects the site and addresses the Matejkas’ concerns.
Participant Involvement Program
The AUC was concerned about the Matejkas’ assertion that AltaLink did not conduct its consultation in good faith. The AUC recognized how, for example, AltaLink’s decision to leave unconstructed poles on the Matejkas’ land for the past 13 years may have impacted the Matejkas’ relationship with AltaLink. Nonetheless, the AUC found that AltaLink’s participant involvement program met its purposes of consultation. Accordingly, the AUC found that the participant involvement program undertaken by AltaLink met the requirements of Rule 007. The AUC expected AltaLink to honour any commitments it may have made to First Nations during the consultation process that were directed by ACMSW.
The AUC found the approval of the application to be in the public interest.