COLUMBIA — City officials have developed yet another option for where to place large power lines that would connect a new Mill Creek electric substation to the rest of the city's power grid.
During a Monday work session of the City Council, Columbia Water and Light Director Tad Johnsen presented Option B-2, which would place more than one-third of the power line routes on city-owned property.
Here is a summary of the optional routes being considered for new power lines in southern and western Columbia that are intended to connect a new Mill Creek substation with the city's power grid.
- Option A calls for one 161-kilovolt line to run from the Grindstone substation along Grindstone Parkway and across Providence Road to the Mill Creek substation. Another would run from the Perche Creek substation along Scott and Nifong boulevards. A third would run from McBaine along Route K and Providence.
- Option B would push the McBaine line to the west along Route K and Howard Orchard Road, connecting it to the Perche Creek substation. It also would use existing 69-kilovolt lines between the Hinkson and Grindstone substations. One new line from the Mill Creek substation would cross Providence Road near Nifong and connect with an existing line. Another would run along Grindstone Parkway.
- Option B-2 would push even farther west and run the line across city-owned land in the MKT Trail corridor.
Staff from the department have been working for more than two years to find a route that's palatable to the public. Previous routes proposed by the city have failed to win favor, mostly because residents worried the power lines would be too close to homes.
The B-2 line would run from the McBaine substation along Route K and continue past Howard Orchard Road. Lines under Option B-2 would run close to the MKT Trail and the Katy Trail and eventually continue onto Scott Boulevard to connect to the Perche Creek substation.
The city plans to build the Mill Creek substation on property near Peachtree Plaza and connect it with the rest of the grid using 69-kilovolt and 161-kilovolt power lines. The project would cost an estimated $26.3 million and is necessary, officials say, to increase the capacity and reliability of the city's electric distribution system.
The department has already offered two alternatives, known as Options A and B, that would power the Mill Creek substation by connecting it to other substations. Option A would use new 161-kilovolt power lines, while Option B would use a combination of new 161-kilovolt lines and existing 69-kilovolt lines.
The public wasn't happy with either option. Based on the feedback it received, the department created a "decision matrix" intended to rank the options based on public priorities. Residents have told the city that their primary concern about the lines is proximity to homes. The matrix also lists proximity to schools, businesses and recreation areas, as well as cost and environmental impact as significant factors.
Johnsen said that Option B-2 was not considered initially because the line would be 22 percent longer than in Option B and because the initial preference was to run the lines along existing rights of way next to roads. That would increase the cost of the project significantly.
Johnsen noted that Option B-2 scores lower on the decision matrix than Option B, primarily because of cost and proximity to recreation areas.
Helen Anthony, Fifth Ward councilwoman, whose ward includes much of the territory where the B-2 lines would be placed, said she prefers Options B and B-2 because they affect fewer homes. She also expects her constituents will prefer any plan that does not run along Nifong or Scott boulevards.
Anthony said she would reserve judgment on whether Option B or B-2 is better until the public has had a chance to compare the two routes and offer feedback.
Johnsen said the department plans to hold a public forum on the proposed routes this fall, and he expects city officials will make a final decision on which route to use by the winter of 2013.
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