Yesterday the Alberta Utilities Commission ("AUC") released its decision approving the Heartland Transmission Project put forward by the proponents, Altalink Management Ltd. and EPCOR Distribution & Transmission Inc.

While there are some site specific conditions imposed by the AUC, as well as some minor route variations, to address the concerns of specific impacted parties, the approved route largely follows the route put forward by the proponents as the Preferred Route.

This route will see the 500 kv transmission lines running for approximately 65 km, from south Edmonton through the Transportation and Utility Corridor (TUC) on the east side of Edmonton where the Anthony Henday runs, past Sherwood Park and into a substation, which will be built in the Fort Saskatchewan area. The AUC accepted this route largely due to the use of the TUC, which will be used for about half the length of the line.

A monopole option, to reduce the visual impact, was approved for a 9.5 km stretch in the Sherwood Park area. An option for burying a portion of the line was rejected by the AUC due to the large increase in costs, with little demonstrated benefit.

The oral portion of the hearing of this application took place over 25 days in March and April 2011 with the AUC hearing approximately 170 witnesses.

The two other applications for transmission projects, designated as "critical needs infrastructure" which were scheduled to be before the AUC this fall. However, their appearances were postponed at the request of the Government, to give Cabinet an opportunity to review the legislation surrounding the designation of these projects as "critical need".

Other authorizations must be obtained by the proponents before the Heartland Transmission Project is built. However, the approval of this Preferred Route by the AUC is a significant step in moving this Project towards construction