MEA Board of Directors Approves Resolution Opposing City of Wasilla Delay in Transmission Construction Permitting Decision
Palmer, AK – At its regularly scheduled June 10, 2013 meeting, the Matanuska Electric Association Board of Directors approved a resolution condemning the actions of the City of Wasilla in MEA's ongoing efforts to construct needed transmission lines from the Hospital Substation to Herning Substation. Herning Substation is located in downtown Wasilla. The resolution also endorsed the use of the most "cost-effective transmission connections between the Hospital and Herning substations" - in this case, the Parks Highway Corridor route proposed by MEA in September of 2012.
Wasilla is the largest and fastest growing electrical load center in the Matanuska Susitna Borough, and that load is served through Herning Substation in the city’s downtown. Construction of new transmission from Hospital to Herning Substations will enable MEA to better serve the growing demand in that community, increase reliability, decrease the duration of any outages that do occur, and prevent damage to electrical systems along the Railbelt should a large-scale outage occur.
MEA began public discussions with City of Wasilla Planning staff in April of 2012. In September of that year, a series of Open Houses and Public Hearings were held to collect community member comment. In December, MEA submitted a formal permit application to the City of Wasilla seeking approval of its Parks Highway Corridor route, but the application was withdrawn in January of 2013 to allow for evaluation of the City Administration’s recommendation that transmission lines be buried along the preferred route. With undergrounding of the transmission system coming at an increased cost of nearly $31 million, MEA developed additional route options and went back to the community for additional input. Throughout the entire process, MEA has maintained that the Parks Highway corridor is the preferred route with the lowest cost and lowest private residential property impact.
In all, nine public meetings have been held in and around Wasilla since September 2012, including the recent meetings with the Wasilla Planning Commission and the Fairview Community Council. A tenth public meeting, to be held to brief the Wasilla City Council on the project and give the elected body the chance to hear directly from the community, was scheduled but subsequently cancelled by the Wasilla City Council on May 13, 2013. MEA has also held additional meetings with the City of Wasilla Administration throughout 2012 and 2013.
On May 21, 2013, following limited Commission discussion and over the objection of one member of the six-member body, a vote was taken to require additional “charrette” style public meetings to allow the public to develop alternatives to the eight routing options which have been presented by MEA so far.
Attached is the language of the resolution.
RESOLUTION NO. 1968
SUBJECT: TRANSMISSION LINES FROM HOSPITAL TO HERNING SUBSTATIONS
WHEREAS, Matanuska Electric Association, Inc. (“MEA”) is required to deliver power to its members as an obligation of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity granted by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (“RCA”); and
WHEREAS, MEA is required to plan for and is obligated to extend its transmission to support the loads in MEA’s service area in a manner to reliably and efficiently deliver power to those loads; and
WHEREAS, MEA has developed its Transmission Long Range Plan (LRP) to identify where the electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure needs to be expanded and upgraded and as a result a new transmission line linking Hospital Substation to Herning Substation is an immediate need; and
WHEREAS, Wasilla is one of the largest load growth centers in MEA’s service area, and MEA is obligated to build the electrical infrastructure needed where the load growth requires it; and
WHEREAS, Wasilla has stated in its comprehensive plan that its goal is to remain the center of commerce in the Matanuska Valley and to continue to attract new businesses and Wasilla has been successful in achieving this aim, and as a result MEA needs to make sure there is proper power transmission and distribution infrastructure to support this growth; and
WHEREAS, the City Comprehensive Plan requires the City to “Promote positive neighborhood identities and build strong civic base to enhance resident’s quality of life” which may not be achievable by routing the transmission line through residential neighborhoods; and
WHEREAS, MEA engaged in a route selection study to identify the best route to achieve construction of a transmission line to serve the City of Wasilla and its surrounding residential and commercial facilities; and
WHEREAS, MEA strives to do the greatest public good for the least private harm in every undertaking; and
WHEREAS, the northern side of the Parks Highway route has been determined to be the lowest cost route, and it also has the fewest private property impacts; and
WHEREAS, the City of Wasilla Comprehensive Plan requires the City to “Provide essential service and facilities necessary to encourage new commercial, industrial and manufacturing development”; and
WHEREAS, the Parks Highway route is already developed as a commercial corridor and is the likely area for continued commercial and industrial growth, therefore selection of this route would result in the least possible impacts from transmission additions, including visual impacts, and greatest access to power for new businesses in Wasilla; and
WHEREAS, Wasilla residents’ opinion regarding priorities from the Comprehensive Plan indicated that “Improved utilities/infrastructure” was a higher priority than “Maintaining community identity & quality of life”; and
WHEREAS, one of the principles of good municipal planning is to group like infrastructure together and the Parks Highway corridor through Wasilla groups transportation and utility infrastructure together with the heaviest concentration of commercial and industrial users; and
WHEREAS, the City of Wasilla Planning Commission took up the issue of the transmission route at its May 14, 2013, planning meeting to assess the Parks Highway route option; and
WHEREAS, the City of Wasilla’s Municipal Code has a prescriptive timeline to respond to MEA’s application for Land Use and Use Permits, and that time for review has expired without a decision by the City; and
WHEREAS, MEA is required to construct the transmission and distribution facilities to meet the growing electrical demand, and co-locating these facilities on the same structure further minimizes potential impacts to the City of Wasilla; and
NOW THEREFORE be it resolved that:
- MEA objects to the stall tactics evident in the City of Wasilla’s handling of MEA’s request.
- MEA further objects to the Wasilla Planning Commission’s continuances of the public hearing and authorizing and suggesting further public meetings, workshops, and reviews on the application.
- These unwarranted actions force unreasonable delay upon the applicant.
- MEA considers these actions abusive and ultra vires of Title 16 of the Wasilla City Code of Ordinances.
- This Board supports the most cost-effective transmission connections between Hospital and Herning substations.
PASSED AND APPROVED by the Board of Directors of Matanuska Electric Association, Inc., this 10th day of June, 2013.
ELSIE E. “LOIS” LESTER
PETER H. BURCHELL