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Landscaping, recycling, floods & farm animals – Behind the scenes of the Yellowhead Transmission Reinforcement

August 25, 2011

Keith Turriff was promoted to Project Manager in March of this year, and one of his first projects in this role was the Yellowhead Transmission Reinforcement. In the past few months, Keith has learned firsthand about all of the little details that go into a project, and how important every member of the team is.

The Yellowhead Transmission Reinforcement is part of AltaLink's effort to reinforce an aging part of Alberta's transmission system. Comprised of transmission system upgrades in the Alberta Beach, Drayton Valley, Edson and Hinton areas, the Yellowhead Area Reinforcement involves building new lines, rebuilding existing lines and removing others from service.

Consultation

After a year-long consultation process beginning in 2009, we filed applications for the project components in July and August of 2010. We received approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in April of this year.

"After filing the applications, the AUC posted a notice of intent to participate and several landowners identified concerns,” says Keith. "We were able to work with the landowners and mitigate their concerns, and as a result, no hearing was required. This is a great achievement after consulting with over 4,000 stakeholders.”

There have been many factors for the team to consider when developing routes in the Yellowhead area, including working around almost 600 pipeline crossings and several environmental sensitivities. The area is home to many rare species, wetlands, and even a Grizzly Bear Management Zone. "The project team has been very strategic in our planning to ensure that proper precautions were taken while still working to achieve project approval,” says Keith.

Landscaping

The Yellowhead project is somewhat unique because a portion of it runs right through the middle of the Town of Drayton Valley, making visual considerations very important. "We continue to work closely with stakeholders as we move into the construction stage of the project,” says Keith. "For example, we are collaborating with the Town of Drayton Valley to ensure the construction area is restored once the project is complete.”

Part of this restoration includes transplanting and replacing trees that need to be removed from the transmission line right-of-way.

"We will be transplanting some poplar, spruce, and birch trees to recreation areas and along the boulevard in town. There are eight spruce trees that are too mature and large to transplant, so we will be replacing those with 16 younger spruce trees,” explains Keith. "Also, some of the trees that need to be removed are currently concealing an industrial area, so we offered to build the town an eight foot cedar fence that can provide better coverage of the area.”

The Edson to Hinton portion of the Yellowhead project goes through primarily rural areas. To replace any trees that will be cleared for that route Keith says they have offered to plant lilacs.

Recycling

Since much of the Yellowhead Transmission Reinforcement involves rebuilding existing lines, we expect to accumulate an estimated 1400 wood poles by the end of construction. The team is currently seeking opportunities to reuse the salvaged poles.

"Some of the poles may be of adequate quality to be milled into 4x4 and 6x6 cants (angled strips of wood) for various uses, primarily in the oil patch,” says Keith.

Another exciting opportunity may be to refurbish and resell the poles for future transmission related projects. Next week, a representative from Bell Pole's Minnesota Headquarter will be flying up to explore the project areas and see what condition the poles are in.

"If the poles qualify for refurbishment, they may be used to support a growing market in the eastern U.S. for power poles,” explains Keith. "This could be the beginning of a new opportunity for AltaLink to continue to find more sustainable solutions for our salvaged equipment.”

Floods and Farm Animals

The Yellowhead area has seen more than its fair share of rain this year. Take a look at the attached pictures of what the conditions were like around some of the project areas up until early July.

During some of the construction planning, the team was joined by some friendly farm animals on a few property visits. Check out the attached pictures of these furry friends.

Although Keith has seen and learned a lot as the Project Manager for the Yellowhead Transmission Reinforcement, he makes it very clear that the entire project was a team effort. He would like to recognize and thank Bobbi Magee, Renai Ralph, John Rassmussen, Jennifer Furmento, Shannon Taggard-Semmens, Tshela Boyo, Shawn Scotton and Richard Fortin for all of their hard work and dedication to this project.

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