The idea of power lines, possibly as tall as 100 feet, running through the Heber Valley has some residents up in arms, but members of the Heber Valley Light and Power board think they might have found a way to mitigate citizens’ concerns.
Heber Valley Light and Power and Rocky Mountain Power are working to install transmission lines spanning from the Jordanelle Dam to the Midway substation, about ten miles, but Heber Mayor Kelleen Potter says the facilities committee may have found a solution that could possible reduce the impact of the powerlines on the view corridor.
“It’s the very north end of the project which would end up connecting to the Rocky Mountain Power section up at Jordanelle. The facilities committee had determined that if we bury the underbuild—the underbuild is the communication lines, the distribution lines—it would make the poles a little shorter and a little less, I guess the word is ugly. As everybody thinks they’re so awful but anyway it just makes it look a little less notable. That is the recommendation of the facilities committee is to move forward on that section with some of these changes to make it a little less noticeable.”
Heber Light and Power CFO Bart Miller says that with adjustments the poles height would range from 75-100 feet tall. The facilities committee, which is made up of three members of the Heber Light and Power board, will continue to meet and look at the other sections as the project moves into the valley. Burying the entirety of the line would be an estimated four times the cost of installing poles.
“The idea of burying all the lines is out of the picture. The cost is just too high and there’s not support on the board for that. But particularly Mayor Johnson and I still trying to push to say are there sections that we can bury? What are the most offensive sections? Interestingly it seems to just come down to different opinions. Some people think, ‘oh you cannot have those poles in the North Fields, it’s such a beautiful view for our valley, you need to bury that section.’ Well I was speaking to the rotary group and several people said, ‘oh it doesn’t matter in the North Fields, just get them far out. But you cannot have those poles in the neighborhoods, you’ve got to bury the sections in the neighborhoods.’ Then we have other people saying, ‘It’s not a big deal, they’re just poles. Over time people don’t notice them anymore it’s not worth creating a new tax.’ So, we really have a lot of different opinion all across the spectrum.”
A grass roots organization VOLT has risen up to voice their disapproval of the line. VOLT is an acronym for Valley-wide Opposition to Large Transmission lines. Members of the organization raised questions at the meeting on November 28.
“They’re concerned about how big are they really going to be? What are the easements? When exactly will they know what the plan is? Those were some of the questions that came up. We had an open discussion in the meeting and allowed the public to talk about it. The way this project works is there’s sort of this big picture. Yes, we need the line and where’s it going to go, but the details aren’t really worked out until after the permit is issued and then the engineering takes place. The size of the poles and exactly where they’re going to be located will be done on a pole by pole basis. So naturally people are concerned. There was someone there who said this easement will go right into their kitchen. So, I totally understand their concern and I’m hoping that as we move forward, we can get them more information. We’re just moving forward trying to work out all the details.”
Rocky Mountain Power has planned to install power lines for years to connect their power loop. Although the Heber Valley has its own independent power provider, Mayor Potter says they could not stop Rocky Mountain Power from installing their lines.
“It appears that Rocky Mountain Power can come through our valley whether it benefits us or not. So, it makes sense to have one set of power lines through our valley not two. There’s a dual purpose, we’ll have one side of the line will be the Rocky Mountain Power line and the other side of the pole we’ll have the Heber Light and Power line. It benefits us in a big picture way that we get a second point of interconnect, they pay 80% of the project.”