VOL. 18  ISSUE NO. 36   | SEPTEMBER 5 – 11, 2012


APS 69-kV power line project becomes battle of the NIMBYs

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aps mapThe APS mailer announcing last month’s meeting provided a map showing five potential routes APS was reviewing for the 69-kV power line project to connect the substation on Skyline Drive and Sunset Trail to the Gavilan Peak Substation in Desert Hills.

CAVE CREEK – APS recently announced it would be reviewing five different routes it has identified to install a new 69-kilovolt (kV) electric power line within and near the town of Cave Creek, Carefree, Phoenix, Scottsdale and unincorporated Maricopa County.

The project has been on APS’ list of long-term capital improvements to meet its commitment to providing, safe and reliable electric service and is expected to be completed in 2014.

APS held two public meetings identifying five potential routes to connect the Cave Creek substation to the Gavilan Peak Substation to provide back-up power in the event of an outage.
The first meeting was held on April 10, which more than 100 people attended and submitted 72 comments. The second meeting was held on Aug. 15.

APS will continue to accept comments, which may be e-mailed to Richard.Stuhan@aps.com, by phone at 602-493-4448 or via the project’s online form at http://www.aps.com/main/info/siting/ContactForm.html through Aug. 31.

Since the project was announced, citizens from all areas and municipalities have chimed in to say “not in my back yard” (NIMBY).

Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia wondered if APS can just do nothing. However, APS spokesman Steven Gotfried indicated, because APS is tasked with providing safe and reliable power that is not an option.

Citizens have not suffered any extended loss of service, which Gotfried says is a testament to APS’ commitment to providing reliable service, but he also said APS would not be able to guarantee uninterrupted service for the long term without completing this project.

APS will only pay to install overhead lines, which can cost between $300,000 and $750,000 per mile, not including land, depending on a number of factors.

The cost of installing the lines underground can cost anywhere from five to 10 times that amount.

APS explains when lines are installed overhead the ambient air around the lines helps cool the lines. When the lines are buried, they have less opportunity to dissipate heat and the rating or carrying capacity of line is reduced.

According to APS, underground power lines, while less susceptible to wind damage, are more susceptible to water and digging damage. Underground line problems are generally more difficult to locate and take much longer to repair than the equivalent overhead power line, resulting in longer power outages.

Beth Longbrake who lives caddy-corner to the substation is organizing an effort to fight the 69-kV project and is petitioning to have the substation moved to a new location.

However, some of the assertions she has made in a flyer on her gate are not exactly correct.
There is no question about her claim that power lines can have a detrimental effect on property values.

In fact, the state land department has expressed it does not want the power lines strung along its property for exactly that reason. It cannot sell the land at auction for highest and best price with overhead power lines.

And, while APS has the power of eminent domain to condemn private land, it can only install power lines on state land with the state land department’s permission.

Longbrake claims an APS senior land agent told her 69-kV power lines would not be allowed in residential areas with today’s regulations.

Gotfried says that is not true and said APS has substations in 69 residential communities.

Longbrake says APS will have to continually expand the substation to serve an ever-increasing demand with population growth and believes this is a good time to move the substation to a remote location, suggesting the wastewater treatment plant site on Carefree Highway.

Moving the substation still doesn’t answer the question as to how APS should route the connection to the Gavilan Peak Substation, how much it would cost or who would pay for the relocation.

Plus, there would still be a need for power poles to go in someone’s back yard.

Longbrake’s claim that the wastewater treatment plant was moved to Carefree Highway due to several years of complaints and possibly lawsuits is not correct.

A new wastewater treatment plant was built on Carefree Highway because the old plant was nearing capacity and the small site precluded its expansion.

When asked if the equipment at the substation itself would be expanded, Gotfried said the equipment takes up approximately one-third of the land and new equipment would not take up a bigger footprint than what is currently there.

He also said the only variance APS may need for site improvements would be for a 10-foot block wall because one corner of the 1.2-acre, odd-shaped property may not meet the setback requirements.

Then there’s the objections cited by MCDOT (Maricopa County Depart-ment of Transportation), which has plans to widen Carefree Highway in the future. MCDOT objects to buried lines under the highway widening project and would place poles for overhead lines pretty much right up to the backyards of Estado de Cholla and Whispering Hills residents.

The proposed route through Scottsdale and Phoenix and unincorporated Maricopa County is undesirable to those communities since the proposed project would bring only detrimental effects in order to benefit others.

Citizens living along the various proposed routes have expressed not wanting the poles in their backyard and APS is reviewing its options.

According to Gotfried, the difference between the shortest and longest route is four miles.
Another suggestion would be to see if grants might be available to enable an underground installation. However, in order to apply for a grant, costs are needed as well as time to apply and secure funding.

While APS realizes whatever they do will not make everyone happy, Gotfried said APS is currently working with the town on the cost of undergrounding the lines.

Gotfried also said APS can install overhead lines and can always come back and underground them when and if the town secures funding.

That would appear to be a more expensive option since it would no longer be the price difference to install the lines underground but the entire cost.

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