COLUMBIA — As city officials try to decide where they will install large new power lines in south Columbia, Boone County commissioners are trying to ensure their constituents aren't left out of the decision.
Representatives of Columbia Water and Light met with the Boone County Commission last week to discuss proposed routes for the new power lines, which the city has deemed necessary to meet the rising demand and ensure capacity in the southern part of the city.
Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller made it clear that neither she nor county residents want the city to "dump their problems into the county."
"We want to be a part of this decision," Miller said. "I want to make sure we are taken into consideration."
One of the main differences between two proposals for where to place the power lines is the impact on the city and county. Option A uses routes entirely within the city to connect 161-kilovolt lines to the proposed Mill Creek substation from the Grindstone, Perche Creek and McBaine substations.
Option B, on the other hand, would use more existing power line routes in the county to connect the substations. Although both options call for some 161-kilovolt lines, Option B includes more 69-kilovolt lines.
Water and Light engineer David Storvick has been working on the proposed routes. He said residents have been quite vocal about the project, and he noted that there were 350 people at a recent interested party meeting held at Gentry Middle School.
"Nothing utility-wise has stirred up anything like this before," Storvick said.
Hot topics at the meeting involved not only where the power lines should go, but also how they might affect people who live nearby.
According to the city’s website, the top five concerns about the Perche line include residential impact, proximity to the Katy Trail, environmental impact, safety and health, and declining property values.
About 100 residents of The Cascades signed letters to Water and Light representing their neighborhood's opposition to Option B. They argue Option B would be more expensive, would harm their property values and would not be a long-term solution to the city's rising power demand.
Richard Mull, who lives in Bedford Walk subdivision north of Nifong Boulevard, is among another 80 or so people who filled out comment cards on the proposals. He supports Option B because it avoids more densely developed residential areas.
"If those lines are put in near residential property, the value (of the property) will drop," Mull said.
Most of the public comments complain that the power lines will be an eyesore. SEGA Inc. consultants for the Water and Light, have superimposed images of the power line structures onto photos of the proposed routes to give the public a better understanding of the two options. The pictures can be viewed on the city’s website.
According to a previous Missourian article, 3,200 residents would be affected by Option A, while Option B would affect more than 1,000 residents.
Commissioner Miller questioned the need to install the power lines alongside roads rather than running them across fields. Storvick explained that roadside lines would be easier to maintain and would avoid the need to remove trees. He said lines across fields would require the city to buy right of way.
Along with holding public meetings, Water and Light has been collecting written comments on the power lines. Storvick said Water and Light will continue accepting public comment until Dec. 1. It will forward those comments to the consultants.
"The plan is to present to the City Council, then schedule another interested party meeting where we will discuss options A and B," Storvick said. "We'll collect even more input to go before the City Council again, and then finally have a public hearing in the spring."