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CALGARY, Alberta — Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. filed for Alberta regulatory approval Thursday, hoping to become Canada's first cross-border merchant power transmission line into the United States.

The proposed 190-mile line between the southern Alberta city of Lethbridge and Great Falls, Mont., would be a 300 megawatt, bi-directional line and cost more than $100 million to build. The line would be the first to connect the Alberta and Montana power grids.

While there are other transmission lines between Canada and the U.S., they are all owned by utility companies. The proposed Montana-Alberta line would be a merchant line, with shippers paying the tolls, not rate-payers.

"Our project means a more reliable electrical system for both Albertans and Montanans, with no impact on the current power transmission rates and no government subsidies," Alberta Montana Tie president Lorry Wilson said in a release.

Nearly half of the capacity of the proposed line is already under long-term contract by two Montana wind farms — one planned near Cut Bank, Mont., and the other near Browning, Mont., — and other wind power producers are bidding on the remaining line capacity in an open-season process that ends on June 30.

About 87 miles of the line will be in Canada, ending at a new electrical substation northeast of Lethbridge and entering the U.S. just west of the Coutts crossing. U.S. regulatory applications for the line have also been filed on the federal and state levels.

Thursday's filing of the "facility application" is the final regulatory application for the line, and includes proposed changes to the route to reflect landowner concerns around the environmentally sensitive Milk River Ridge.

The Alberta Energy and Utilities Board will decide in the next few weeks whether to hold hearings into the application.

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Following regulatory approval, construction is expected to start later this year with startup scheduled for the first half of 2007.

Montana Alberta Tie expects the transmission line to stimulate more than $1 billion worth of wind power projects in the region.

Montana Alberta Tie is wholly-owned by Toronto-based Tonbridge Power Inc. In afternoon trading on Canada's junior exchange, the company's shares remained flat at 40 cents each.

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