Decision on controversial Parks Highway powerlines possible tonight

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Wasilla planning officials could decide a hotly contested permit for a new powerline along the city's Parks Highway corridor tonight.

As expected, the city's planning commission will review a proposal to approve the permit - with a catch.

According to a proposed resolution, city approval hinges on a promise that Matanuska Electric Association bury the line.

Matanuska Electric wants to connect existing powerlines at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center with the Herning substation near downtown Wasilla. MEA's leading proposal would line the highway and adjacent neighborhoods with transmission towers 80- to 100-feet tall.

Wasilla city officials, led by Mayor Verne Rupright, bristled at MEA's plans, saying the massive towers would mar the scenery of the highway corridor at the cost of property values and potential commercial development.

The co-op has said burying the line in an underground tunnel could quadruple the project cost, estimated at just under $10 million.

MEA's general manager, Joe Griffith, in July warned that Wasilla residents and businesses could shoulder the extra cost if state regulators sign off a pending request.

The planning commission will hold the latest public hearing on the MEA proposal tonight.

The commission meets at 7 p.m. at Wasilla City Hall Council Chambers, 290 E. Herning Ave.