Some differences resolved in power substation plans | RecordCourier.com
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Some differences resolved in power substation plans

Nancy Hamlett, Record-Courier staff writer

Johnson Lane area residents gained ground in their disagreement with Sierra Pacific Power Co.’s plans for constructing a new substation and overhead electric lines in the area. However Terry Cupp, president of the Saratoga Springs Estates Homeowners Association, said differences are far from resolved.

“Our quest, our little battle, is won – our petitions had an impact,” said Cupp about the utility’s agreement to change a small segment of the proposed power line construction from overhead to underground. The segment extends along Stephanie Way from west of Vicky Lane to Heybourne Road. Also changed to underground construction is a segment from the substation west to the Romero Drive and Stephanie Way intersection.

“Saratoga Springs may have won a victory, but we are still concerned about the whole area, our neighbors and friends. We have to have a unified approach,” said Cupp.

Sierra Pacific first unveiled plans June 14 to construct a substation on BLM land due east of the intersection of Romero Drive and Stephanie Way. Led by Cupp, the Saratoga Springs residents signed petitions objecting to above ground utilities near their subdivision and along Stephanie Way.

“They (Sierra Pacific) conceded about the new construction being put underground, but they said that the conversion of the single overhead lines to double overhead lines needs to remain overhead,” said Cupp.

Areas tentatively scheduled for double overhead construction are from the proposed substation site south to Sunrise Pass Road and then turning west to follow Sunrise Pass Road to the intersection with East Valley Road. The other proposed double overhead construction is along Stephanie Way from the intersection with Romero Drive to a point west of Vicky Lane.

Lines extending west of the intersection of Sunrise Pass Road and East Valley Road to Heybourne Road, and along Johnson Lane, have been rescheduled for future construction and will be placed underground.

Steve Rodolf, engineer for the power company, confirmed Cupp’s conjecture that existing overhead lines will not be placed underground, adding that if Douglas County insists on underground construction, the existing lines would stay in place, and only the new lines would run underground.

According to Rodolf, the decision is based on costs. Converting overhead lines, which already have service lines running to homes, to an underground line is very expensive.

“I don’t have good numbers, but the cost would fall somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 per house,” said Rodolf. “We’d have to configure new transformers on the ground, and each house would need new underground service. And, remember, that our poles are used by cable and phone companies. Those utilities must be brought into consideration.”

Rodolf said, however, that the overhead line would be constructed using a streamlined profile, using a smaller bracket.

“It’s an esthetic improvement over what is there currently,” said Rodolf, adding that the streamlined construction is also easier to configure for reduced electromagnetic fields, which was promised in the June 14 meeting with residents.

Approximately 20 Wildhorse Homeowners Association members attended a meeting with Sierra Pacific representatives and agreed that the streamlined construction was more appealing. According to Rod Alfonso, president of the association, a straw poll of the attending membership asked, if they had the opportunity to choose, which construction would they select.

“Hands down they chose the streamlined construction,” said Alfonso. “We’re pleased that Sierra Pacific is listening to us. Of course, we can’t be complacent. We’ll have to see what is actually presented to the county,”

The Douglas County master plan required new utility lines be placed underground and encourage the same for existing lines.

Mimi Moss, Douglas County planning and economic development manager, said that waivers have been granted in the past.

“It’s not unusual under certain circumstances, however we won’t know until we receive the applications and we have the complete package. It’s too premature to consider whether Sierra Pacific Power would qualify for a waiver,” said Moss.

Rodolf said that the utility company plans to file for use permits and zone changes in August.

“Nothing is finalized at this time – we are listening to the residents and doing what we can to please them, and we have been in contact with the county to gauge their reaction. Ultimately, how we build the lines is up to Douglas County,” said Rodolf.