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Residents concerned about power line

by Nancy Hamlett

Sierra Pacific Power Co. unveiled plans for a new power substation in the Johnson Lane area at a forum Wednesday at Pinon Hills Elementary School.

Focusing on transmission and distribution planning, land services, environmental and design engineering and construction, power company representatives attempted to convince a crowd of almost 80 concerned citizens about the negligible impact of the system.

Karl Walquist, public information officer for the utility, said the new substation would serve customers in north Carson Valley and south Eagle Valley over the county line in Carson City. Four potential sites have been identified for the substation, with the favorite at the east end of Stephanie Way, near the cross street of Romero Drive on BLM land.

Citing a need to increase electric capacity to serve growth, company representatives indicated that there is no alternative power source for the Johnson Lane area in the event of a problem at the Buckeye substation, which now serves the area. The new substation is one step of many to perfect a grid system that could redistribute power in case of an outage. The next step of the process would be a substation in the Muller Lane area, west of Highway 395.

In addition to the substation, the SPP plan includes new power line construction with double overhead configuration from the substation east to Heybourne Road following Stephanie Way and another, south to Johnson Lane. New single overhead lines are proposed for along Johnson Lane, Sunrise Pass Road to the airport and along Vicky, north of the Stephanie Way intersection.

“Our initial impression is that the substation itself isn’t the problem, but the new overhead lines. Many people have expressed the opinion that they prefer underground lines,” said Walquist.

n Too expensive. However, Walquist said that underground lines are expensive, costing nearly five times more than overhead lines.

“But if the people are willing to pay the increased power costs, then it is something we should look into,” he said.

The new power lines, especially the double overhead variety raised electromagnetic field (EMF) concerns with Rome and Cary Tenpenny, Stephanie Way residents.

John Owens, SPP manager of transmission design and construction transmissions, said that recent studies have provided options for significantly reducing EMF output.

“We now know how to configure wiring so that it reduces EMF. We are committed to be responsible to these concerns, and we are willing to do that on this project,” said Owens.

Many residents view the construction of the substation as an indicator of change for the Johnson Lane Area. Marlene Day, a resident of Wildhorse, was vocal about her objections, stating that the new overhead line running to the airport signifies the potential for future development.

“Why would they need more power into the airport unless the county was planning to lift the weight restrictions?” said Day. “It only stands to reason that there is something here that we aren’t being told.”

County Commissioner Kelly Kite denied any preplanning on the part of Douglas County.

“First, the county commission does not have the authority to remove weight limits at the airport. Second, the weight limits can not be changed without a vote of the people, and third, I have no appetite to have large planes flying over my house, either,” said Kite.

Addressing environmental concerns, Steve Siegel with SPP said that construction of the substation and power lines wouldn’t involve the wholesale removal of vegetation. The substation would sit on a gravel pad with small concrete pillars, and no roads would be necessary for power line construction. The only disruption to the ecosystem would be holes drilled for the poles.

n Flood potential. The potential for increased flooding due to storm water run-off in the Buckbrush and Johnson Lane flood areas was not addressed by the power company or BLM representatives. Rob Pierce, with Resource Concepts, the Carson City consulting firm that will be completing the environmental assessment, said that the firm does not plan to do any additional studies in this area.

“We rely on information already out there, we don’t gather new information,” said Pierce. “But if there is a potential for increased flooding, that will be addressed in our report.”

Also at issue with Johnson Lane citizens was the lack of notification about the meeting. Public information officer Walquist stated that more than 1,800 notices were mailed out to residents east of Vicky Lane and north of Sunrise Pass Road. However, the meeting wasn’t the end to the public comment period.

Information packets regarding the proposed substation and power line construction are available through the Bureau of Land Management, and comments should be mailed to John Singlaub, Bureau of Land Management, Carson City Field Office, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, Carson City, Nevada 89701. The comment period ends on July 7, with a draft environmental assessment available for public review in August.