The Salt River Project’s proposed routes for power lines in Chandler are facing criticism and opposition again but this time the city council is getting involved.
SRP-proposed power lines in Chandler are sparking controversy again, but this time the City Council is getting involved in the nearly four-year saga.
To the applause of a room full of red-shirted residents, the council on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution opposing the two proposed routes:
- One route would go down Ellis Road next to several neighborhoods, which has residents upset.
- The other would go down a portion of the Price Road Corridor, which city leaders say they won’t support unless the lines are buried.
Earlier this year, SRP significantly revised the proposed route to lessen the impact on Chandler neighborhoods as it looks to get more electricity to the Price Road Corridor and its booming tech sector.
But city leaders and residents aren’t satisfied.
“All of the negotiations and work with SRP have yet to yield a reasonable resolution deemed satisfactory to the Chandler communities, residents and the city,” the city resolution reads.
“While it is likely no route alternative will please everyone, SRP seeks to identify the most appropriate solutions for new infrastructure needed to support growth and continued reliability,” SRP spokesman Scott Harelson said.
Power line wins and losses
Chandler is taking up a fight that city leaders throughout metro Phoenix have faced. Sometimes cities have been able able to get routes changed or find alternate solutions and others have not.
Chandler residents are hoping not to repeat that scenario.
The line through Chandler would consist of 230-kilovolt power poles that are 120 to 150 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.
Chandler residents take a stand
Vice Mayor Kevin Hartke added more chairs as 40 to 50 residents recently streamed into Trinity Christian Fellowship Church, where he is a pastor, for a meeting between the Brittany Heights community and SRP.
The residents were most concerned about the proposed route down Ellis Road.
“It will most likely be on our application (to the Arizona Corporation Commission) but will not be our preferred route,” SRP Project Manager Tom Novy said.
“Then remove it from the proposal,” a resident shouted from the back, which was followed by applause and cheering.
To lay new lines, SRP is required to submit at least two proposed routes to the Arizona Corporation Commission. One route would be submitted as the preferred route and others as alternatives.
Harelson said SRP does not yet have a preferred route and even the proposed routes could change.
SRP representatives say they do not want lines down Ellis either, but they say it is a “straight line with existing infrastructure.”
“When you look at Ellis Road there are existing power lines in that area that can be rebuilt,” Novy said. The area currently has 69-kilovolt lines between 55 and 70 feet tall, or about half the height of the proposed lines.
“It can be moved farther away from homes if that route is selected,” Novy said, adding that it is still not SRP’s preferred route.
“I feel like SRP is just doing this to check a box,” said Christiana Schnettler, who has organized residents in opposition.
Their concerns include health risks, noise from the lines and the impact on home values.
“I plan on growing old here,” said Vintage Villas resident Lisa Cimino, who estimates the proposed Ellis line would be about 10 feet from her backyard.
If the lines go up she said she may move, despite recent renovations to her backyard.
“We’ve put a whole lot of money in our backyard,” Cimino said. “Now there may be a pole right in my backyard.”
Cimino and neighbors say they may try to leave if the lines become a reality but they’re worried about property values, an issue that an SRP representatives said was unfounded at the meeting.
Pecos Ranch Estates resident Mark Hill said he was told his house would see a 10 percent decrease in value if the new lines come down Ellis. Their house is 180 feet away from the proposed route.
Are power lines a health risk?
Residents raised health concerns associated with the electromagnetic fields from power lines, saying not enough research has been done.
More than 25,000 scientific studies and research papers have been published over the past 30 years on the biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation and electromagnetic fields, according to the World Health Organization.
Scientific knowledge surrounding possible medical effects from electromagnetic fields is “now more extensive than for most chemicals,” according to the WHO.
However, the health organization said more study is needed into the biological side effects of electromagnetic fields because of how frequently we encounter them in our daily lives. Cellphones, microwaves, plugged-in devices, TV antennas, computer screens and just about every electronic device in our day-to-day lives produce an electromagnetic field of some sort.
The WHO said there is one known health consequence from power lines being close to homes: stress.
Stress caused by perceived health risks can take a toll on a person’s mental and physical health, according to a WHO pamphlet on electromagnetic fields.
Can’t the lines just be buried?
Critics call on SRP to bury the lines to lessen the aesthetic impact, but Novy said that could be tricky.
The cost to place power lines underground is typically 10 times more expensive, Novy said.
Plus, the proposed lines are not standard one-way single-circuit lines, they’re double circuit. Meaning they’d have to double just about everything that would need to be done.
Novy estimated one mile of these underground lines would cost roughly $18 million.
Add on that the areas of Ellis and Price already have underground utilities, including a high-pressure nitrogen line, and it makes it impossible to put lines underground in some areas, Novy said.
“It’s physically not possible,” he said.
Novy said he’d expect to run into the same issues burying the lines on the proposed Price Road route.
Harelson said the city could use money to bury the lines from a fund that SRP provides to cities based on the utility construction done in the city. However, Chandler only has $271,500 available of the $820,000 it received this year
Chandler will re-evaluate projects that were going to be funded with the money, Chandler spokesman Matt Burdick said.
Burdick said the city also has presented alternative routes to SRP.
Harelson said those options were “not feasible.”
“In certain route alternatives, there are simply too many existing utilities to move,” Harelson said, adding “any attempt to do so would create circumstances that would cause considerable disruption to business in the area including, but not limited to, lack of access and power and water disruptions.”
However, SRP plans to look at other routes until they have “exhausted all possibilities,” Novy said.
SRP representatives continue to meet with residents and will hold another open house, although no date has been set.
Residents can submit comments at www.priceroadcorridor.com.
SRP plans to submit its proposal to the Arizona Corporation Commission in mid- to late June.
From there, SRP must seek environmental approvals from the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee before seeking final approval from the Corporation Commission.
Mayor Jay Tibshraeny has asked the city to seek outside counsel to represent them at Corporation Commission hearings and residents are considering hiring one, too.
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