Controversy over a planned power line in Queen Creek is energizing angst from all sides. Residents are upset they’ll have to drive more than 30 miles one way to attend a meeting on the siting of the 230-kilovolt line, while the town manager is questioning the amount of money Salt River Project plans to spend to improve the look of the project.
Controversy over a planned power line in Queen Creek is energizing angst from all sides.
Residents are upset they’ll have to drive more than 30 miles one way to attend a meeting on the siting of the 230-kilovolt line, while the town manager is questioning the amount of money Salt River Project plans to spend to improve the look of the project.
And complaints are still bubbling up about potential routes for the 20-mile Abel-Moody line.
The path the line will follow is scheduled for debate Tuesday and Wednesday at a second round of public hearings held by the Arizona Corporation Commission Line Siting Committee.
SRP counters critics by saying it’s still trying to reach out to residents, even though the utility couldn’t find a location closer to the town. And the process of deciding how to make substations more aesthetically pleasing is just getting started, the company said.
SRP is planning to build the Abel-Moody line between stations in southeast Gilbert and northwest Pinal County, with construction starting in 2011.
It’s up to the Arizona Corporation Commission to decide on the line’s path, although SRP evaluated and presented several possibilities to the group’s line siting committee to pick from.
SRP’s preferred route runs along the Rittenhouse railroad corridor into Queen Creek, cuts east on Ryan Road and south on Signal Butte Road.
Queen Creek’s Town Council favors a route along Germann and Meridian roads and strongly opposes running the line on Rittenhouse all the way through town.
A group calling itself Rittenhouse Residents Against Transmission Lines is also supporting the Germann route because it runs past the fewest number of homes. Members collected 3,000 signatures so far favoring the route, said group chairman John Upshur.
“We’re not against power lines. We wouldn’t mind them up against Germann, where there aren’t many residences and it’s mostly industrial” planning areas, Upshur said.
Upshur spoke at the first round of line siting committee meetings last month, which were held at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus.
More than 120 people attended that meeting. It was mostly Queen Creek residents who spoke in favor of the Germann route, although a contingent from a Mesa neighborhood near the road urged a more southern path.
The second round of hearings next week are going to be in Phoenix, near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Upshur believes that’s to prevent residents affected by the line from speaking.
“Why does Queen Creek have to go to Sky Harbor Airport, which is 32 miles from here one way,” Upshur asked. “This is really upsetting a lot of residents out here.”
The distance is complicated by the fact the hearings are being held during work hours, he said.
Stephanie Winn, SRP public involvement representative, said the meetings will be in Phoenix due to a venue issue, not to keep the public away.
“I’m disappointed about that” reaction, Winn said. “SRP has worked so hard to get the public involved in the project.”
The line siting committee sets a time for the hearings, then SRP finds a location. The utility couldn’t book the ASU Polytechnic campus this time because classes are in session, Winn said.
It also couldn’t find a site near Queen Creek, but it hopes to find something closer for the next hearings in late October, Winn said.
Town Manager John Kross said a representative from the town will be at next week’s meetings. In addition to the route, Kross is turning his attention to another aspect of the project: aesthetics.
He worries that the $750,000 SRP has marked for screening the substation is “woefully inadequate” and is likely to build a chain-link fence and not much more.
To make his point, he pointed to the block wall around the substation at Ocotillo and Ellsworth Loop roads. It cost $400,000 to put the wall around the two-acre site, he said.
A site hasn’t been determined for a new Queen Creek substation, although the town prefers one north of Combs Road and west of the Meridian alignment.
Winn said the substation will be about 25 acres. She also said the block wall around the Ocotillo and Ellsworth Loop substation was in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.
Kross pointed to a nice-looking wall around the Browning substation in Mesa and some of the landscaping around the Santan Generating Station in Gilbert as two examples of what he’d like to see in Queen Creek.
“There’s some precedent that SRP seemed to care about their impacts on neighborhoods,” Kross said. “That’s the issue we’re bringing forward, is that we’d like them to care about Queen Creek neighborhoods as much as they care about Gilbert neighborhoods.”
Winn said SRP has seen renderings of what the town would like around the substation.
“We do want to work with them to come up with screening around the site,” Winn said. “We think we can do a pretty good job.”
Arizona Corporation Commission Line Siting Committee meeting
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
Where: Phoenix Airport Marriott, 1101 E. 44th St., Phoenix