Wasilla Planning and Zoning Commission Votes to Hold Additional Public Meetings to Allow Community Members to Plan Matanuska Electric Association Transmission Route Through Wasilla
Palmer, AK – On Tuesday, May 21 at 7pm, Matanuska Electric Association continued its dialog with the Wasilla Planning and Zoning Commission regarding construction of electrical transmission lines along a portion of the Parks Highway Corridor in Wasilla. Additional public testimony was taken at the meeting, which began at 7pm in Wasilla City Council Chambers and lasted approximately two hours. 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. According to the motion, this work is to be completed in time for a report back to the Wasilla Planning and Zoning Commission at its July 9 meeting.
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 have been 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permit application to the City of Wasilla seeking approval of its Parks Highway Corridor route, but the application was withdrawn in January of 2013 to allow for evaluation of the City Administration’s recommendation that transmission lines be buried along the preferred route.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 property impact
Significant public opposition arose to one of the new routes in particular, which would take the project out of the City of Wasilla and instead see construction take place in the Fairview Loop community. Specific objections included increased cost and impacts on residential property. A full breakdown of cost and number of parcels impacted is included as a separate attachment to this release.
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 a meeting of 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.
MEA’s proposal is to follow the least-cost and least impact route option, along the Parks Highway corridor from its Hospital to Herning Substations. 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 not only enable MEA to better serve the growing demand in that community, but will increase reliability, decrease the duration of any outages that do occur, and could prevent damage to electrical systems along the Railbelt should a large-scale outage occur.
The City of Wasilla Administration has expressed strong opposition to the proposed route and has instead pushed for either undergrounding the transmission system upgrades along the Parks (at an additional cost of approximately $31 million) or to move the project out of the City by following Fairview Loop to Cottle Substation (with an additional cost of approximately $4.175 million and significant additional impacts on residential properties).