ACC schedules meeting on power line route

NOGALES, ARIZONA - Most people quickly learn to ignore utility poles as they gaze into the distance. But if the power poles are going to be moved, it’s appreciated when public opinion is taken into consideration.

The route through the Santa Cruz Valley from Amado to Nogales for planned new electric transmission lines is expected to be decided at a public meeting scheduled September 15, in Tucson. One segment in east Rio Rico has raised concern, however.

The five-member Arizona Corporation Commission has received a recommendation about the route placement and will discuss that at the meeting at 10 a.m. at 400 W.

Congress, Room 222, in Tucson. Public comment will be taken and oral arguments by the parties to the proceeding will be heard.

As well as installing new steel power poles to replace aging wooden poles, UniSource Energy Services 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.

To listen to the opinions of local residents, the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee met on June 2, 3 and 4, at the Esplendor Resort in Rio Rico for a hearing. Their recommendation was then presented on July 15 to the ACC members.

The route through Amado, Tubac and Tumacacori will be the same as it is now, east of the Santa Cruz River.

There is controversy about the route through east Rio Rico from the point just south of the Palo Parado crossing of the Santa Cruz River to the Cañez power substation, which is three miles north of Rio Rico Drive.

The recommendation proposes that the route of the power lines be east of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

Rio Rico resident Kathi Campana said she and others asked for the route in that area to be moved west of the railroad tracks. She said there are about 40 parcels of land owned by individuals that would be negatively impacted if the route remains on the east side of the tracks.

If the route is moved to the west side, it would be on agricultural land and it would also offer easier maintenance accessibility to the electric company, she said.

But a letter submitted by John Hays, flood-plain coordinator of the Santa Cruz County Flood Control District, recommends the route differ from what some of the property owners want.

His July 8 letter cautions that placing the route on the west side of the tracks could put it in danger of flooding from the Santa Cruz River, which would damage the poles.

He wrote, “As the line is the only transmission line for the area, it is recommended the line be — protected from the 500-year flood event if placed within the 500-year flood plain of any watershed.”

Also, it would “damage what riparian habitat remains or is re-establishing itself along the west side of the tracks between the river and the tracks,” he wrote.

Campana disagrees and plans to counter some of the things Hays said in his letter when she speaks at the September 15 meeting. She intends to present signed petitions and photographs to the Arizona Corporation Commission members, she said.


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