Electric Transmission Line Relocation

Building the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project is a massive enterprise, and includes the construction of hundreds of kilometre-lanes of roads, 49 bridges and 14 interchanges, but the project involves more than just a freeway. One of the first projects to be undertaken in preparation for the construction of the ring road involves the relocation of an electrical transmission line; one that not only crosses the ring road corridor, but also bisects the Northeast corner of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve.

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A satellite image showing the location of the northeast corner of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve in relation to southwest Calgary. Source: Google Earth.

AltaLink, the company that owns the bulk of Alberta’s electrical transmission network, is currently in the process of installing a new underground transmission line within the right-of-ways for Glenmore Trail and 37th street SW. This work is being done in advance of the decommissioning and salvage of the portion of the existing line that crosses the reserve, and the story of how the existing line ended up on reserve land, and why it is now being removed, is an interesting one that dates back almost 100 years.

The Start of the Line

In 1924 the Calgary Power Company Ltd. planned an electric transmission line to connect their hydroelectric operations at horseshoe falls on the Bow river to south Calgary. Transmission Line No. 3 was to split off from an existing line at Jumping Pound, then head south and east for 35 kilometres to Macleod Trail at 50th avenue SW.1 Despite a few alterations over the years, this route remains largely intact and in service today.

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Map showing the full extend of Transmission Line No. 3, from Jumping Pound to the intersection of 50th Avenue SW and Macleod Trail. Source: Google Earth, ‘Plan showing land required for right-of-way of Transmission Line No. 3 from Jumping Pound to Calgary through Townships 23 & 24 in Ranges 1, 2, 3 & 4 all west of the fifth meridian and through the Sarcee Indian Reserve’ R.V. Heathcott. Calgary Power Company Ltd. Alberta Land Registry Plan RW176. 1924.

The route for the new line was surveyed, and a corridor of between 30 and 100 feet in width was allocated to the utility, including a small section that ran through the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve (then known as the Sarcee reserve). A 3.7 km portion of the line was earmarked along the northern boundary of the Nation’s land, adjacent to what is now Glenmore Trail between about 69th street SW and 37th street SW. The 100-foot-wide corridor comprised 31.6 acres of reserve land, through an area known as Sarcee Camp or The 940.2

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Survey showing the route of Transmission Line No. 3 as it crosses the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. Source: ‘Plan showing land required for right of way of Transmission Line No. 3 in the Sarcee Indian Reserve through Tp.23 Rg.2 W5th Mer.’ R.V. Heathcott. Calgary Power Company Ltd. Canada Lands Survey Plan IRR 2059. 1924.

At the time of the survey, this part of the Tsuut’ina reserve was under lease to the Department of National Defence. Known as Sarcee Camp, the land had been turned into a training camp in 1915 in the midst of the First World War. When permission to cross this land was sought by the Calgary Power Company, the request was handled by the department of Indian Affairs, and no record of the involvement or approval of the members of the Tsuut’ina Nation are on file with the Federal Government.

The Federal Indian Commissioner valued a corridor agreement at $1000, which the Calgary Power Company paid in order to secure a perpetual easement for the power lines.3 On December 8 1924, the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs and representatives of the Calgary Power Company ratified the agreement, with the Department of National Defence signing off on a clause that would not hold the Military liable for “damage or injury done to the… transmission line… which may result from the use of the said Sarcee Camp for Military training…” and which would also compensate the Military for any damage caused by the operation of the line.4

With the survey in place and permissions acquired from other landowners along the entire route, the line was soon under construction. In 1926 the line was energized, and began to serve the increasing electricity needs of a growing modern city.

War and (Electrical) Power

Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s Transmission Line No. 3 operated unobtrusively side-by-side with Sarcee Camp. The camp was in regular use for peace-time training, but the outbreak of another war would change much on the Tsuut’ina reserve, including the transmission line.

In 1939 Canada became embroiled in World War 2, and military installations across Canada, including Sarcee Camp and the newer Currie Barracks to the north, were seeing increased use.

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Photo of the runways at Currie Field, with the Glenmore reservoir in the background. Source: Richard Brown. Bomber Command Museum of Canada.

As part of the war effort, the Canadian Government earmarked Calgary as the site of a new air school. Service Flying Training School No. 3 was to be established on land directly northeast of Sarcee Camp as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan,5 a scheme that would see tens of thousands of airmen trained across Canada and the world during the war. The land selected for the new air school had already seen use as an airfield for a number of years as Currie Airfield, but formal runways hadn’t been constructed up to that point.

Transmission Line No. 3 crossed directly through the chosen location for the new triangular runway of the flight school, and this overlap meant that the power lines had to move. A slight relocation of the line would not suffice as the raised power lines posed a threat to taking-off and landing aircraft,6 so a more significant move was required.

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Aerial photo showing the location of Sarcee Camp, and of the Transmission Line No. 3 corridor that ran along the 50th avenue SW road allowance. Source: Photo A13952-6, University of Calgary Alberta Air Photo Collection. National Airphoto Library. 1955.

In June of 1940 the Acting Deputy Minister (Air Service) of the Department of National Defence asked for permission to move the transmission line further south into the reserve, bisecting the Sarcee Camp lands. Within a few days, the Deputy Minister of the Indian Affairs Branch replied with an approval of the idea, in part because the cost of the relocation would not be charged to the Nation, and also because “…this proposed diversion will not in any way interfere with the activities of the Sarcee Indians…”.7

There is no record of any approval of the relocation by Tsuut’ina Nation members, nor of the Nation being notified of the potential move. Since the Department’s approval was granted less than a week after receiving the request, there would have been insufficient time for a formal surrender to have been granted by the Nation. As this was a case of one Federal department communicating directly with another, it appears unlikely that the request ever left Ottawa.

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Aerial photo showing the position of the relocated transmission line across Sarcee Camp, and the relative location of the Currie Barracks and the air school runways. Source: Photo A13952-6, University of Calgary Alberta Air Photo Collection. National Airphoto Library. 1955.

The same week that the Department granted permission for the transmission line move, the Tsuut’ina Nation’s Chief and Council made a related approval of their own. On June 19 1940, the Nation passed a Band Council Resolution approving the sale of gravel from the reserve to Dutton Brothers contractors, for use in constructing the new runways.8 Following a survey of the newly-altered power line corridor, the runways were under construction and nearly 5 km of the transmission line was shifted 1.6km south of its original corridor. The transmission line now diagonally crossed Sarcee Camp, and headed east through what would later become the community of Lakeview, only returning to its original route once it was clear of the airspace of the new air school.9

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Article announcing the opening of the Service Flying Training School No. 3. Calgary Herald, October 28 1940.

On the morning of October 28 1940, only 132 days after receiving permission to move the transmission lines, the flight school was officially opened. With the airspace clear and the runways built, the air school was ready to begin training new pilots and airmen. Continue reading “Electric Transmission Line Relocation”

Tsuut’ina Trail Officially Named

Today, a new name was unveiled for the Southwest portion of Calgary’s Ring Road, between Glenmore Trail and the Fish Creek park. Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Lee Crowchild, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason and Canada Minister of Veteran’s Affairs Kent Hehr were on hand at an official ceremony to announce that the road would be known as ‘Tsuut’ina Trail’. The ring road is currently named ‘Stoney Trail’ around the rest of the city.

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L-R: Kent Hehr, Naheed Nenshi, Lee Crowchild, Brian Mason.

The ceremony began after an opening prayer by Tsuut’ina elder Gerald Meguinis. The prayer spoke of safety and prosperity not just for the Nation, but for the assembled guests, and for the travellers who would soon be using the road.

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Tsuut’ina Nation Elder Gerald Meguinis, giving the opening prayer.

While the Province is officially embracing ‘Tsuut’ina Trail’ as the name for one segment of the ring road, Chief Crowchild suggested taking the renaming one step further. He stated “We believe that the entire ring road can, and should, be named Tsuut’ina (Trail)” and noted the significant role that the Nation has played in helping to get the road finished.

Transportation Minister Mason was reportedly only made aware of the idea to rename the entire road within the last day or so, and was cautious, yet willing to explore the idea. “It doesn’t take a political science graduate to see the difficulty, but certainly I’m prepared to talk to the chief and if necessary, to talk to the three chiefs and the Stoney Nation as well and if they can reach some sort of agreement, I think we can too.” he said.1

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Tsuut’ina Nation Chief and Council. L-R: Darrell Crowchild, LeeRoy Meguinis, Andrew Onespot, Chief Lee Crowchild, Lyle Dodginghorse, Vincent Crowchild, Leon Littlelight, Kelsey Big Plume.

Regarding the official renaming, Mayor Nenshi stated “I can’t think of a better name for this important piece of infrastructure than Tsuut’ina Trail. It is a reminder of our common path as neighbours and fellow citizens,”.2

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Calgary’s ring road was first officially named ‘Stoney Trail’ in January of 1981, by Calgary’s City Council when the road project still fell under the City’s remit.3 Previous working-names for the southwest section of the road have included the West Bypass (1959), the Sarcee Trail Extension (1970) and the Southwest Connector (2003).

Continue reading “Tsuut’ina Trail Officially Named”

A day on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve

On May 3rd, 2017, I was fortunate enough to accompany Hal Eagletail on a tour of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. Hal is a well respected cultural leader of the Tsuut’ina, and the Lakeview Community Association’s Tsuut’ina Nation Relations Committee had invited him to speak to residents about the history and culture of the Nation. Hal wanted to show certain areas of the reserve in his presentation, and as chairman of the committee, I was asked if I was interested in seeing more of the land and to take photos. I was treated to an incredible day, listening to some of the stories and walking the land of the Tsuut’ina Nation.

Any mistakes in the stories recounted in this post are mine and not Hal’s. While the post below covers some of what was presented in Hal’s talk, I recommend watching the video of the presentation, which is shown at the end of this post.

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‘Danit’ada’ is the traditional Tsuut’ina greeting.

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Rock Cairn

On the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877, the Tsuut’ina Nation was allocated a reserve adjacent to the Siksika Nation, near what is now Bassano, Alberta. After negotiating with the Federal Government for their own land, the area around Fish Creek (known as Wolf Creek to the Tsuut’ina) was selected by Tsuut’ina scouts. The scouts created a pile of rocks on a hill overlooking the creek in order to mark the land, and in 1883 when the new reserve was established, Chief Bullhead placed a rock on the pile and told all of his people to place their own rock. To this day, every Nation member continues to place a rock on the pile when they come of age, and as the Nation grows, so to does the pile.

A marker stone telling the story of the cairn was unveiled by Prince Charles in 1977.

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New Tsuut’ina Museum

Near the rock cairn is the new Tsuut’ina Nation museum. The previous museum was established in the early 1980s, and was located in the old Seven Chiefs sportsplex building. When the sportplex was torn down a few years ago to make way for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, the museum’s collection was put into storage to await a new home. The new museum is located just south of Chief Bullhead’s old house (built in 1909) is slated to open on Treaty Day, June 28 2017.

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Indian Agent’s House

For decades, Federal employees known as Indian Agents were sent to oversee nearly every aspect of a First Nation’s business. The agent would typically live on the reserve they were sent to manage, in a house provided by the Government. This hundred-year-old Agent’s house, with its three fireplaces, was considerably larger than any other residence on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve including the Chief’s house.

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Residential School Site

The lone spruce tree just to the right of the centre of the photograph above grows on the site of the old Tsuut’ina Nation reserve residential school (the Anglican St. Barnabas School). In the foreground is a thicket of yellow lilac bushes planted by the children who lived at the school.

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Anglican Church

Pictured is the third Anglican Church built on the reserve. The foundations of the second church lie to the left of the church in this photograph. The first church, established in the late 1880s, was a sod building.

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Southwest Calgary Ring Road Corridor

This view, looking north, shows the new Southwest Calgary Ring Road corridor along the eastern edge of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. The Wolf Creek/Fish Creek valley is in the foreground, and the fence-line to the right of centre of this photo denotes the previous boundary of the reserve, adjacent to 37th street SW and the community of Woodbine. The Nation’s Administration building is visible at the left of the photo.

Hal recounted that in the 1800s a man named Eaglerib had a vision: that the land chosen for the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve would one day be surrounded by boxes, and that these boxes would allow the Nation to prosper. Over a hundred years later, the houses of Calgarians will soon surround the reserve on three sides. With the new ring road being built to provide access to future commercial developments, the growth and proximity of the City of Calgary is seen to be fulfilling Eaglerib’s vision of a coming prosperity for the Nation. Continue reading “A day on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve”

Jane’s Walk 2017

 

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Why was the SW ring road planned through a First Nations reserve? How did the Weaselhead come to be owned by the City of Calgary? Why are Unexploded Ordnance being found in the Elbow river valley?

Join me on this year’s Jane’s Walk through a beautiful and historic part of Calgary, and learn about the soon-to-be-built SW ring road, 60+ years in the making.

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The turn out for the last year’s walk was fantastic, and I will be leading it again for the third time this year. The walk will be a chance to talk, to look at the history of the SW Ring Road, and to explore the past, present, and future of the Weaselhead; one of the most historically rich areas of Calgary.

We’ll travel along the first Provincial highway that was built through the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve over 115 years ago (with origins dating back even before the signing of Treaty 7) and through land that was purchased in the 1930s for the Glenmore Reservoir. We’ll see where the Canadian Military operated the largest WWI training camp in Western Canada, and explore the legacy of disputed land ownership and unexploded ordnance that years of military use has left behind. We’ll experience one of the quietest corners of the city adjacent to where the SW Ring Road is planned to be built, see where previous plans would have located the road through the valley, and look at the role that future economic development has played getting the road approved.

Details

Date: Sunday May 7, 2017
Time: 1:00 pm
Duration: about 2 hours
Meeting Place: North Weaselhead Parking Lot (at the corner of 37th street SW and 66th avenue SW in Lakeview)


 

Jane’s Walk in Calgary

Click here to visit the Jane’s Walk description for the SW Ring Road and Weaselhead walk
and
Click here to see all of the Jane’s Walks that will be happening this year

 

With thanks to Doug Sephton for the photos of last year’s walk.

The Rise and Fall of the Priddis Trail – Part 3: Closure

This is the third in a five-part series looking at the history of the Priddis Trail. The first part, which examined the establishment of the road can be found here. while part two, focusing on the early years of the road is here. I acknowledge that the resources that inform this work are largely that of non-First Nations sources, and in particular this article will focus on a non-indigenous perspective on the decline of the Priddis Trail. The next article will look more at the Military’s use of the Priddis Trail, while the final part looks at the problematic legacy of this road, and will begin to address the perspective not covered in this section.


Three decades after beginning life as a Government highway, the Priddis Trail was in 1930 a well-used main road that served a growing agricultural district, a burgeoning oil industry, a First Nation and an important Military training camp.

The establishment in 1900 of the road, built along the route of an old trail that crossed the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve, was originally done in order to provide reliable access to lands located southwest of Calgary. The original trail between the city and the Priddis area was notorious for its chronically poor, often impassable condition, and it was expected that upon acquiring the corridor for the road from the Tsuut’ina Nation, the Government would create and maintain a modern and reliable road. It was this desire for better access that led homesteaders to petition the government to acquire the road in the first place, and yet three decades later, this objective remained largely unfulfilled; although a road had certainly been built, it was proving far from suitable.

1926-pt(The route of the Priddis Trail (magenta) between Calgary and Millarville through the Tsuut’ina Reserve (outlined in light-pink). Source: Topographical Survey of Canada, Department of the Interior. Calgary District, Alberta. Ottawa: Department of the Interior, 1926. Peel’s Prairie Provinces Archives, University of Alberta. Map 17. Highlight added.)

The new road suffered from the same wet, periodically impassible conditions that plagued the original wagon trail. The condition of the road was exacerbated in the 1920s` by an influx of traffic brought on by an oil boom in the Turner Valley, which the Priddis Trail increasingly served. In 1930 the Province of Alberta recognized that improving the road with proper drainage and a gravelled surface would benefit both residents and industry alike, and secured funding to improve and reconstruct the road in order to make the Priddis Trail into what would soon be known as Highway 22. Continue reading “The Rise and Fall of the Priddis Trail – Part 3: Closure”

2016 SW Ring Road Open Houses

KGL Constructors, the subcontractor responsible for the design and construction of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, will be leading three open house sessions this month. Representatives from KGL, Alberta Transportation, and the City of Calgary will be on hand to present information about the project, and to answer questions about the progress and schedule of construction.

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2016 SOUTHWEST CALGARY RING ROAD INFORMATION SESSIONS:

Monday, November 28 (South Glenmore)
5:00-8:00 p.m.
Oakridge Community Hall, 9504 Oakfield Drive S.W.
View Google Map

Tuesday, November 29 (North Glenmore)
5:00-8:00 p.m.
Calgary First Church of the Nazarene, 65 Richard Way S.W.
View Google Map

Wednesday, November 30 (Deep South)
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Bishop O’Byrne High School, 333 Shawville Boulevard S.E.
View Google Map

 

SW Ring Road Contract Signed

This week the Province of Alberta and Mountain View Partners signed a Design, Build, Finance and Maintain P3 contract for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project. Proposals for the project, which will run from Highway 8 in Springbank to Macleod Trail at Highway 22x, were invited last September, and in July of this year Mountain View Partners was announced as the preferred proponent.

The agreement will see the contractor design and construct the project over the next five years, and then maintain the road for 30 years of operation, concluding in 2051. The contract has been valued at $1.42 billion in 2016 dollars, while the unadjusted figure has yet to be released.

The Province of Alberta, with support of the Federal Government, will fund the project 60%, while Mountain View Partners will finance the remaining 40% over the life of the contract. Two other bids were rejected: Valley Link Partners with a bid of $1.88 billion and Southwest Connect with a $1.55 billion bid.

This leg of the ring road is expected to be open to Calgary drivers in 2021, leaving only the West Calgary Ring Road project remaining.

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CLICK TO ENLARGE. The extent of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project is highlighted on the map above in red. The blue section represents the currently-delayed West Calgary Ring Road project. Source: Alberta Transportation.

Click here for detailed maps of the entire route.


SOURCES

  1. “Southwest Calgary Ring Road gets full financing”. Province of Alberta, Press Release. September 15 2016. http://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=43419D6A370C6-F108-C355-1A58CBC56D7E5163