MEA At Odds With Wasilla Over Power Lines

The Matanuska Electric Association’s board of directors is condemning actions by the city of Wasilla to block construction of MEA transmission lines to a  power substation in downtown Wasilla.

The Matanuska Electric Association board this week approved a resolution against the city of Wasilla’s action, while endorsing the use of the most “cost-effective transmission connections” between two substations – in this case, a route along the Parks Highway which was proposed by MEA in September of last year.

Last month, MEA had sought approval from the Wasilla planning and zoning commission for construction of new transmission lines along the Parks. But the city has expressed disapproval of that plan, because the city wants more costly underground lines. MEA spokesman Kevin Brown

“We are going to build transmission lines from Eklutna to our hospital substation outside of Wasilla. And then from the hospital substation we need to get to the Herning substation which is in downtown Wasilla. What is in conflict with the city of Wasilla is the roughly three mile section of the hospital to Herning route that is inside the city limits. “

The city’s request for underground lines would add 31 million dollars to the cost of the project according to Brown. MEA contends that Wasilla is the largest and fastest growing electrical load center in the Matanuska Susitna Borough, and that construction of new transmission lines between the substations will enable MEA to better serve the growing demand in that community. But Wasilla’s planing and zoning commission has decided to require additional public meetings to allow input into a choice of route

“And they have failed to vote on anything, instead preferring to go through a new round of public process that they would manage internally to try to pick a different route for us, without answering the fundamental question that they had been asked in the first place. “

Brown says MEA sees the commission’s move as a stall tactic. Brown also says MEA had presented the city with eight routing options since 2012, and that the resolution reminds the city that it is obligated to deal with the question of the route.

“Basically what’s happened is that they have been in front of the planning commission for one meeting. “

But Wasilla public works director Archie Giddings says a big project should not be rushed

” consider the merits of taking the cheapest, fastest, shortest route versus balancing that with what a comprehensive plan is looking at with trying to protect the quality of the viewshed, and try to protect other commercial businesses in the area. And going underground, I think we all agree, is expensive, but we’ve also asked them to look at other routes, that won’t go up basically the two biggest commercial areas we have. “

Giddings says the city is putting together public meetings to look at alternative routes. The information will be presented at the next planning commission meeting.

“And this is a big deal this is a big project, this is a huge impact, we are talking tens of millions of dollars at stake. So to have a second meeting, we don’t think, I know they are in a hurry, they have a time line they put themselves under, but we are not unduly dragging this on just to be unfair. “

Giddings says to his knowledge, the MEA board’s resolution does not have any legal clout.

Brown says the conflict with the city is not impacting progress on construction of MEA’s new Eklutna power generation facility.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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