MEA power line plan provides options

Matanuska Electric Association has announced it’s preferred alternative route for a transmission line through Wasilla, and the power company is offering the city’s planning commission a wide range of choices.

15MEA Plan map

A year ago, MEA’s preferred Parks Highway transmission route through downtown Wasilla met with fiery opposition from the city planning commission. Now, the power company has come up with a new plan that outlines four major route corridors, and within those, hundreds of modifications.

MEA spokesperson Julie Estey, says

“Well, after months of public comment, and a really detailed analysis, where we went parcel by parcel and analyzed impact, whether view or buffering, or loss of property, we have narrowed it down now to one preferred alternative and two other options. So we have submitted to the city of Wasilla those three alternatives.”

On Wednesday, MEA also submitted it’s draft Decisional Document outlining it’s preferred route proposal to the Matanuska Susitna Borough planning commission, which also needs to approve the final selection. The transmission lines are part of MEA’s long range plan, and they will connect two of the power company’s Wasilla substations.

The latest proposal comes after a year or more of public comment, community meetings, and polls on the part of MEA. The company used a ranking system to identify the best routes between the Lazelle substation on the city’s West side, to the Herndon substation downtown. Then, it narrowed the choices down to three, Estey says.

“We looked at 440 routes, at every parcel along those 440 routes, and gave it a score. And based on that score, all the high ranking scores were either in the Theater or the Gully routes. So that’s where we focused our final analysis. So we took then 20 of those in that area and analyzed it at a deeper level for adjacent properties, and based on that, we came down to one preferred alternative and two additional options.”

MEA selected a modified route within the Theater corridor, T-24, as its preferred alternative, with T- 17 as runnerup and a third alternative within the Gully corridor. MEA has applied to Wasilla’s planning commission for permits for it’s new preferred route, and it’s second and third choices.

The Wasilla application is for a double circuit overhead transmission line route. MEA’s draft decisional document states that “unless a compelling case can be made for using the alternative segments or alignments, MEA plans to remain with the preferred alignment.”

Wasilla Planning Commissioner Tina Crawford says she will reserve comment until all of MEA’s documents are reviewed by the planning commission. Last year, Wasilla’s planning commission approved the Parks Highway route, with the caveat that the lines be buried underground. MEA had proposed above ground lines, and rejected the underground plan, due to extreme cost. Julie Estey says the Parks Highway route is completely off the table now.

The new plan calls for above ground transmission structures up to 100 feet tall, although the height can be modified, according to Estey.

“We can reduce the height of those structures, and that is one of the concessions actually that we have made in this design, to reduce the height of those structures, so that the folks that live with their views above that gully don’t have them in their line of sight. ”

The selection of T-24 as the number one MEA choice is based partially on cost, which is an estimated $9.1 million dollars. MEA’s top route alternatives all cost between $8.7 and $9.2 million.

Estey says MEA is taking public input on it’s Decisional Document through November 9. The Wasilla planning commision is holding a public hearing on the new transmission line application on November 10. Estey says, if the application for a route is accepted, construction could begin in 2017.

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