MEA appeals Wasilla demand for power line burial

zhollander@adn.comSeptember 17, 2013 

WASILLA -- Matanuska Electric Association is appealing the city of Wasilla's decision to force the electric co-operative to bury a high-voltage transmission line planned for downtown.

In August, the city planning commission voted to give MEA a permit to build a 115-kilovolt transmission line on Wasilla's eastern flank but only if the co-op put the line underground instead of on 80- to 100-foot towers as planned. Commissioners said they wanted to safeguard the city's scenery and property values. MEA has said the change could quadruple the cost of the project to $40 million, an overage the co-op said it would try to recoup from city residents on their power bills.

The appeal, filed last week, challenges the commission's decision on 17 separate points, faulting the commission's reliance on a comprehensive plan and land development code that lack specific reference to major energy projects and don't provide clear guidance on aesthetic appearance or fiscal impacts.

The Wasilla City Council is expected to appoint a hearing officer for the case on Sept. 23, Wasilla City Clerk Kristie Smithers said. The schedule of the appeal case should be clear by mid-October, Smithers said.

The city will make the case file -- and all the related documents -- available to the public, she said.

She expects the file to be huge.

The commission held four hearings, each two to four hours long. That's four transcripts of at least 50 pages. The city planner has told her she expects to file two to three reams of documents. The case involves the complex workings of utility construction and city comprehensive plans.

"Thankfully, in this new electronic age, we can put it out there a little more," Smithers said.

For more information, go to http://www.cityofwasilla.com/government/pending-appeals .

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.

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