The MEA management team is considering options to bring the core of Wasilla the power it needs after the appeal of the Planning Commission ruling requiring the utility to bury the transmission lines was denied.
‘It is our duty to provide our members with both reliable and affordable power. This decision has put those two mandates at odds with each other, ‘ stated MEA spokesperson, Julie Estey.
Each option comes with resulting consequences for the businesses and residents of Wasilla.
Option 1 – Appeal to the Alaska Superior Court. This is the next legal step in the process. However, an appeal will result in delays and significant expense for both MEA and the City of Wasilla. The likely outcome of a legal battle is a remand back to the Planning Commission which is not in best interest of MEA members or the residents of Wasilla.
Option 2 – Bury the Lines. This option was estimated to increase the price tag by $40M last summer and is likely higher today. Those costs would be passed on to a small number of businesses and homeowners within the city limits, resulting in higher rates. In addition, the upheaval caused during installation and maintenance should not be underestimated. Not only is this not in the best interest of Wasilla businesses and residents nor MEA members, but it is not feasible considering financial limitations and technical constraints.
Option 3 – Stop the Project. Based on current permitting, MEA could stop the transmission lines at the Lazelle Substation just outside the city limits so the lines did not impact the Wasilla view-shed. This is not a viable option either. To meet redundancy and capacity requirements, transmission lines extended through the Wasilla core are necessary so demand does not exceed safe system limits. During a cold snap in the winter of 2012/2013, MEA came dangerously close to the system limits in the Herning substation.
Option 4 – Re-route around Wasilla. This option simply moves the transmission lines from the Parks Highway into neighborhoods and private properties. Depending on the route, this will either require taller towers on existing lines or permission from agencies, residents, schools, businesses, and others for new right-of-way acquisition, delaying the project and increasing costs. More importantly, it would have significant impact on our members’ homes and neighborhoods.
Reliable, affordable energy is an essential service connecting our members and the entire region to a good quality of life and vibrant economy. MEA’s next steps are to meet with members and policy makers to receive feedback and discuss energy management measures that may prove necessary in the interim.
Matanuska Electric Association, Inc., Alaska's oldest and second-largest electric cooperative, is owned and operated by its members. MEA’s service area includes more than 4,200 miles of power lines and serves over 57,000 total accounts in Southcentral Alaska.
Julie Estey, Director of Public Relations
Matanuska Electric Association, Inc.