Rocky Mountain Power line upgrade tabled
January 9, 2015
Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal to upgrade and raise the height on power poles for an existing power transmission line that runs between Coalville and Silver Creek prompted a three-hour-discussion Thursday night with no end result.
The Eastern Summit County Planning Commission held a public hearing, with approximately 15 residents in attendance, regarding Rocky Mountain Power’s conditional use permit application to upgrade the transmission line and replace approximately 300 poles.
After three hours of rapid-fire questions directed at Rocky Mountain Power representatives, the commission voted to continue the public hearing until Feb. 5 and then take action on Feb. 19.
Most of the comments and questions concerning the permit request focused on the line’s current location and the potential health effects associated with the electromagnetic field.
"Magnetic field is not a concern because the science does not support the correlation," Rocky Mountain Power Customer and Community Manager Steve Rush said. "From a legal and regulatory standpoint, electromagnetic field does not come into play during the permit process. You can not use this as a basis of approving or denying an application."
The upgraded line would triple the power capacity and increase the voltage from 46 kilovolts to 138 kilovolts, requiring the installation of new power poles approximately 20 feet taller than the existing poles.
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"They know that there are health problems," Ben Keyes said during the public hearing. The current line crosses Keyes property. "It’s my life and my kids’ life that we are dealing with. If they don’t want to shield it, they ought to move it."
The existing power transmission line runs from Evanston, Wyoming and connects with
substations in Croyden, Coalville, and Silver Creek, crossing 207 properties throughout the county. The power line in the corridor dates back to 1916.
Justin Hobson, whose house sits 65 feet from a pole, said he understands the reason for the upgrades, but wonders what the lasting effect of increasing the voltage will be.
"How safe or unsafe am I, especially when they are raising voltage," Hobson asked. "I understand the need for improvements. I don’t think we should put it someplace else. But it would benefit me greatly if it didn’t go through what I try and do with my farm and my home."
Rocky Mountain Power holds easements to allow for power transmission line upgrades through existing corridors, dating back almost a century. It renegotiated new easements with more specifications for the line upgrade with 200 of the 207 property owners.
"We can’t build this and just gerrymander all over the place," Rush said. "We have an existing line that has a right to be there and we have the right to change and to modify it."
Commissioners acknowledged Rocky Mountain Power’s right to the existing easements.
"I appreciate the fact that you have the right, that is not the question," Commissioner Douglas Clyde said. "The distinction is what you have the right to do and us mitigating what you do. It’s a question of what you have a right to do versus the impacts of building the line.
"And I do think we need a lot more data," he added. "We have the duty as a county to disclose impacts to the extent that those impacts can be quantified."
The project is being proposed in two phases, according to a Summit County staff report.
The first phase of the project would upgrade the line that extends from the Coalville City boundary to Browns Canyon Road, the report stated. The second phase would cover the areas from the Summit-Morgan County boundary to Coalville; and from Brown’s Canyon Road to the Silver Creek substation.
"If we can identify an alternative that is feasible and practical and produces the same result and is less of an impact on our land code and General Plan, is that not a practical alternative?" Clyde said, proposing alternative locations for the current line such as on public and government land.
Douglas went back and forth with Deputy County Attorney Helen Strachan about what the commission was legally allowed to consider and suggest with regard to the permit request.
"That’s not what’s before you," Strachan told Douglas. "The question before you is whether or not they have the right to do that. Yes, they have the necessary easements. To tell them they need to negotiate with various entities is not before you and I don’t think it would be legal."
Once the planning commission determined it had more questions than answers, it voted 5-1 to continue the public hearing until Feb. 5 and then take action on Feb. 19. Commissioner Ken Henrie cast the dissenting vote.
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