Hearing held on route for power lines

NOGALES, ARIZONA - The route through the Santa Cruz Valley for the planned new electric transmission lines was the topic of a three-day hearing in Rio Rico.

In addition to the presentation by UniSource Energy Services, members of the public were invited to give their comments.

The Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee met recently at the Esplendor Resort in Rio Rico for a hearing on the application of Unisource Energy for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility allowing them to upgrade the voltage capacity of the existing line and build some new portions of a high voltage electric power transmission line between the Vail substation south of Tucson to the Valencia substation in Nogales.

John Foreman, Assistant Arizona Attorney General, and chair of the line-siting committee, said approximately 10 local residents spoke and presented written material to the committee about their views on the best location for the placement of the transmission line and the appropriate color of the new poles.

A conclusion has not been reached, Foreman said. The committee plans to listen to the testimony of one of the two members of the public who are recognized as interveners.

Two official members of the public were recognized as interveners and in that role, could present testimony and also question UniSource.

The interveners are Marshall Magruder of Tubac and Elizabeth Webb of Tucson.

Magruder completed his testimony but there wasn’t time for the hearing for Webb’s comments. Foreman said, “It is hoped the final testimony can be taken and a decision reached before July 1. However, the scheduling of the continuation of the hearing will depend upon the availability of time in the schedules of the parties and committee members.”

Joe Salkowski, a spokesman for UniSource, said the company was represented at the hearing by Ed Beck, director of transmission line siting, and two consultants who work for the company.

He said that the company “has not yet received any formal directives,” but that it was agreed UniSource will do some research on an alternative section of the route through north Rio Rico since several people spoke about that.

The Transmission Line Siting Committee will decide this summer whether to recommend to the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission if UniSource should receive the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility.

Salkowski said that if the ACC votes to approve it, “then that is the permission to build along the route.”

As previously reported in this publication, aging wooden electric power poles will be replaced with steel monopoles, and they could be moved in some places east of Interstate 19 in the Rio Rico and Tubac area, under the plan.

UniSource intends to increase the amount of voltage for residents and businesses from 115,000 volts to 138,000 volts, in the project scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Larry Lucero, government relations manager for UniSource Energy Services, spoke in Tubac at the April 20 Santa Cruz Valley Citizens Council meeting.

“The most focused activity will be in the 29.7 miles from Amado to Nogales between Kantor and Valencia substation,” Lucero said. He said Unisource has four substations in the area: Kantor in Amado, Cañez in north Rio Rico, Sonoita in central Rio Rico and Valencia in Nogales.

“We’d prefer to simply rebuild the transmission line in its existing corridor,” Lucero said. “But in a couple of situations, due to encroachment and that property owners have changed the contour of the land from when it was originally built in the 1940s, in a couple of locations we’re going to have to come up with some alternatives.”


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