Valley Residents Weigh-In on MEA's Proposed Transmission Line Routes

Homeowners and residents in the valley are on the heels of adding more power to their grid via the Eklutna Generation Station, but first they have to agree on a route for the giant transmission line.

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by Megan Mazurek

WASILLA - Homeowners and residents in the valley are on the heels of adding more power to their grid via the Eklutna Generation Station, but first they have to agree on a route for the giant transmission line.

Matanuska Electric Association's original and least expensive route would take the power line from the substation at Matanuska Regional Hospital through the center of Wasilla along the Parks Highway, but Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright isn't convinced.      

"It really does devalue properties, it's unsightly," said Mayor Rupright. "We certainly need a boost in our power grade, I completely understand, that's why they should have built the power plant to begin with but that's yesterday."

The Eklutna Generation Station is scheduled to be online by the end of 2014 and will provide 170 megawatt hours to the growing community, according to Kevin Brown, MEA communications manager.

The Matanuska-Susitna Valley is the fastest growing community in the state. According to state economists the region grew by 2 percent in 2012.

Despite the need for power in downtown Wasilla, the city says it doesn't want the 80-foot towers to ruin the scenic landscapes. However, residents living on the outskirts of Wasilla say they don’t want the towers in their backyard and most certainly won't pay more to do so.

"My understanding is it's going to cost another $5-6 million dollars more if they come down this way," said Tom Wisdom, concerned homeowner. "Yeah, that'd be a concern of mine."

Wisdom's home is located on Fairview Loop,1 of the 2 alternate routes under consideration for the transmission line. The route would stay out of Wasilla completely and run through Fairview Loop down to Knik Goose Bay Road. In the second option the transmission line would follow Bogard Road from Trunk Road and head south.

"They're significantly more expensive than our original route," Brown said. “The original route has an estimated price tag of $7 million. Brown wouldn’t give an exact estimate, but said the alternates would be no more than $10 million in additional costs.

The original route along Parks Highway brings the transmission directly to the center of Wasilla where the demand is highest. (To learn more about the routes, click here.)

"That's where they need the most 3-phase power and that's where we have the most difficulty getting it to them,” Brown said. “This would solve that problem he [Mayor Rupright} was however not convinced this was the best option for Wasilla."

"How much do we sacrifice but a few more pennies a kilowatt hour literally on your power bill in the long run,” Mayor Rupright said. “To save the property values, the view shed the aesthetic value and everything that goes with it."

Those same untouched landscapes are what homeowners on the alternate routes are trying to maintain and plan to fight for.

"If you want the congestion with the highway if you want the power lines if you want the giant shopping centers and strip malls, then you take care of the problem," said Tony Blumas, concerned homeowner. "Don't put it outside the city limits."

Residents who are interested in weighing in on MEA’s proposed routes are invited to attend an open house Thursday evening. (2/28) The routes and cost estimates will be discussed in detail from 6-8 p.m. at the United Methodist Church located at 5137 W Fairview Loop.

Public testimony is scheduled for March 14th at the United Methodist Church from 6-8 p.m.

Click here to learn more about MEA' project.

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