Update: Enbridge poised to energize Montana-Alberta Tie-Line

Alberta energy provider Enbridge (NYSE:ENB) is poised to energize the Montana-Alberta Tie-Line (MATL) Aug. 15 despite a month-long delay caused by a pair of ferruginous hawks that decided to nest in a tree within a kilometer of the company’s work site south of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Work crews had been aware that the birds, which are classified as a “species at risk,” were following them as they installed the line. The birds are predators and the work crews stirred up field mice. Once the birds decided to nest in mid-June, however, work came to a temporary halt, an Enbridge spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 12.

The birds’ population in Alberta had dropped below 1,000 breeding pairs by 2005, resulting in a classification of “threatened.” However, their population has been increasing since that low point; they are currently considered a species at risk.

Crews worked on other areas of the project while the birds made their nest, hatched their eggs and reared their three fledglings. After wildlife biologists confirmed in mid-July that the birds had moved on, work resumed on the portion of the project closer to the tree and is now poised to be completed.

Work on the portion of the project in the United States was completed in January, an Enbridge official told TransmissionHub at the time.

According to TransmissionHub data, the Montana-Alberta Tie-Line project is a 214-mile, 230-kV transmission line that originates at Lethbridge, Alberta, and terminates at Great Falls, Mont. The project, which is sponsored by Alberta Tie, Ltd., is estimated to cost $400m, up from the original estimate of $300m “due to the delays in permitting and construction timing,” the spokesperson said, adding that the cost increase due to the delay for the hawks would be a “very small fraction” of that increase.

Enbridge acquired the project assets from Tonbridge for $20m in mid-August 2011. The acquisition included a debt payoff of $50m. Additionally, Enbridge repaid a $161m development loan between Tonbridge and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA).

When completed, the project will enable movement of between 550 MW and 600 MW of electricity between Alberta and Montana on a bi-directional basis.

The MATL is Alberta’s first direct link to the United States and the only private or merchant line in the province. The project will support ongoing development of wind resources and allow energy to flow in both directions, ensuring more reliable supplies of electricity into the Northwest United States and Alberta, according to the Enbridge project website.