PA Herald February 4, 2003
Someone at SaskPower should be held accountable for bungling the PA8 upgrade. Some two years ago, SaskPowers destruction of the 'forest along Highway 2 north of Christopher Lake offended just about everyone with its disregard of both environmental damage and natural beauty. At Christopher Lake, the first "plan" involved running the high-voltage powerline over the forest retreat of a group of nuns. To his credit, John Neilson prompted SaskPower to develop some new "options." Once burned, SaskPower then advocated a route through provincial forest land, apparently on the theory that trees do not complain to government. It was only through the determined efforts of Doris Lund that it became known that SaskPower bad falsely claimed the endorsement of a provincial environmental society for its chosen route. There were, however, no repercussions at SaskPower for that bit of deliberate deception.
There ensued an infamous series of open houses primarily devoted to convincing the public of SaskPoWers choice of route. At the first open house I attended in Christopher Lake, I was told Larry Christie of SaskPower had called the RCMP to attend in case of some undefined trouble. It did give the local constables the chance to say hello to some friends and former teachers attending the open house in the vain hope of changing SaskPowers choice of route. The second open house I went to was a better forum, in that it allowed for presentations by other than SaskPower officials. SaskPower was represented by some sharp-dressed fellow who insisted on calling everyone in attendance you folks, and some hired researchers who looked like they wished they were somewhere else. It was clear that SaskPower was not there to listen. It was no surprise to me to later learn that SaskPower had hired one of the researchers as staff. I guess they liked the job she did.
A short while later, a SERM official declared that SaskPower would create much needless damage with its forest route. He ordered 23 mitigations to avoid the worst of the mess. My guess is that he hoped that the added cost and effort would deter SaskPower from its chosen path. Evidently, he was wrong.
At the end of that process, I guess Ijust did not get it. SaskPower accepted the need to lessen the damage it would cause on the so-called "Pink Route." What was once simply the most expensive route, had now become the even more most-expensive route. Still, SaskPower stuck to its plan. In the process, the peoples power corporation had offended the aesthetic sensibilities of untold northern vacationers, angered local residents, delayed construction and unnecessarily added to the cost of power to all of its customers.
Some of us, perhaps foolishly, had hoped for some last minute reprieve by elected officials from the sound of the chainsaws. When that did not come about, I thought the matter over and resigned myself to the inevitable. The line needed to be built, and better sooner rather than later. It did not seem right, or even sensible, for SaskPower to have delayed the project by being so stubborn in its refusal to consider alternatives. But it seemed unlikely this would be the last time a big corporation rolled over citizen protest, and I once again resigned myself to being on the losing end of public controversy. It was, I admit, particularly galling that this time it was a Crown corporation doing the steamrolling, but there is a time to gracefully give up in defeat and accept the inevitable.
The PA8 controversy has been quiet these last several months: I assumed the work was progressing, that SaskPower would live up to the commitment to accept the mitigations, and hoped it would adopt a conciliatory attitude toward those most disaffected by the building of the new line on the forest route. Then an aging transformer blew in La Ronge. An under-sized replacement transformer also blew. People went without power in the cold of winter. Maybe it was sensible for SaskPower to wait to replace the old transformer until the new PA8 line was up and running. It was not, however, sensible to falsely blame the blown transformers on the defeated victims of SaskPowers disinformation campaign. Unless I am missing something, the old line was too small to provide power to the north, let alone blow transformers on the far end of the line.
But wait, it gets even better. It turns out that SaskPower has finally gotten around to negotiating with its arch-enemy Gerald Regnitter to cut trees on his land. Can it possibly be a coincidence that the negotiations began with the false implication that those tree-huggers at Christopher Lake had once again caused power shortages in La Ronge This time, the SaskPower misinformation stirred the concerned mayor of La Ronge to threaten to cut down a few trees on his own, vigilante style. Not only had a Crown corporation successfully been insensitive to the concerns of citizens, but now it also seemed to be actively (and wrongly but successfully) sowing discord between the people of the province. Another bit of SaskPowers ineptitude in the handling of the PA8 upgrade was now being covered up by pitting one group against another.
I say shame on SaskPower, and suggest that we all deserve better from our public utility. I repeat: Someone at SaskPower should be held accountable for bungling the PA8 upgrade.
Someone at SaskPower should be accountable for PA 8 bungling
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