Landowners, MATL reach compromise

By Karl Puckett, Great Falls Tribune
   Developer Tonbridge Power Inc. announced last week that it has successfully negotiated settlements with four Montana landowners who had objected to its Montana Alberta Tie Line transmission project.
   “What it means is there are no further holdups for construction of this line in the state of Montana,” said Richard Opper, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality.
   The settlement clears up oppositions in Montana, but a group of Alberta landowners continues to fight plans for the $140 million transmission line, which would  connect the electricity markets of Canada, at Lethbridge, and United States, in Great Falls.
   Wind farm developers need transmission to ship power to out-of-state markets, have sited projects along the line, but some landowners objected to the diagonal placement of poles and the use of H-frame poles.
   If response, MATL, reduced the number of miles of diagonal crossings and replaced some  of the H-frames with single poles.
   “Now we can proceed with the project without being pugnacious,” Toronto-based Tonbridge CEO Johan van’t Hof said of the Montana settlements.
   In a special meeting March 6, the Montana Board of Environmental Review, with which the appeals were filed, was expected to formally dismiss the landowners’ appeals.
   About 130 miles of the 203-mile line would cross Montana farmland. van’t Hof said getting support from every landowner has been an unfair “test of unanimity,” but he added that the company has tried to negotiate agreements, as opposed to being “pushy” and beginning construction without them.
   “This means we weren’t being strident,” he said.
   The appealing landowners were Chris Stephens of Dutton; neighbors Jerry McRae and Katrina Wilson Martin, also of Dutton, who filed a joint appeal; and Michael and Donald Koenig of Conrad.
   Michael Koenig referred comments to Norman Grosfield, a Helena attorney representing the family in the dispute.
   “We’ve come to a resolution that is satisfactory to my client,” Grosfield said, adding a confidentiality agreement prevented any further comment.