Columbia residents review possible power line routes

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 | 10:54 p.m. CST; updated 8:38 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 14, 2012
David Storvick, right, engineering manager at Columbia Water and Light, helps citizens understand the mapping of routes for proposed power lines Tuesday at an open house at Windsor Auditorium at Stephens College. The transmission lines, which would connect power substations across Columbia, are necessary to accommodate future growth and improve dependability of the current grid, according to project manager Adam Shuttler.

COLUMBIA — Residents voiced concerns Tuesday that the proposed power line routes for connecting a new Mill Creek substation to the rest of the city's power grid would hurt property values.

"It is aesthetically horrible to have a 10-story pole on the property," Lorrie Schilke said during a public information hearing. "And it is going to lower our property value significantly."

Power line proposals

Here is a summary of the route options 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 Nature and Fitness Trail corridor.

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Columbia residents gathered Tuesday evening at Windsor Auditorium to review the southern Columbia electric transmission line route options and costs and provide their feedback.

City officials have proposed three options for new power line placement: Option A and B 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.

Neither option has received support from the public because residents feared the lines would be too close to homes in the area.

The newest proposed option, B-2, would place more than one-third of the power line route on city-owned property. The lines, however, would run close to the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail and Katy Trail.

The city plans to build the new Mill Creek substation on property near Peachtree Plaza and connect it to the rest of the grid with 161-kilovolt and 69-kilovolt lines. Officials say the project is necessary to increase the capacity and reliability of the city's electric distribution system. The project will cost an estimated $26.3 million. 

At the public information hearing Tuesday, officials with Columbia Water and Light displayed posters of the three options and had staff members available to answer questions.

Helen Givens, who lives along Scott Boulevard, said she prefers option B-2 because it would not come directly by her home.

"I don't want electric lines in my yard," she said. "It would make the yard look bad."

Following the open house, Ryan Williams, assistant director of Columbia Water and Light, gave a presentation to the group of approximately 50 people gathered at the auditorium.

His presentation went through the history of the project, beginning in 2007 when two issues were found as the city conducted future planning studies.

The first was a reliability concern. Williams said weaknesses were found in high-voltage electrical transmission lines around the city, which resulted in overloads in the 69-kilovolt system.

Load growth concerns were also identified. In the southern region of the city, officials foresaw growth and thought a new substation would be required to feed the load growth.

Williams also identified strengths and weaknesses of each proposed route and said the city preferred option A.

Rusty Crane, who lives along Route K, said option A is his preference as well, because it runs east and away from his property.

Crane said he lives in a rural area, and the beautiful landscape would be ruined by the power lines.

"Everybody says, 'Not in my backyard,'" Crane said. "But we have to displace this argument and find what serves the common good."

Crane said he does not like option B-2 because it runs along the MKT and Katy trails.

"As a runner, I would absolutely hate to see that," he said. "I use the trails to get out into nature, and to see those would deface what Columbia has worked so hard to maintain."

Williams said no decision has been made, but the feedback from tonight will be taken into consideration before they select a route.

People who were not able to attend the open house but would like to share their thoughts can complete an online questionnaire about the proposed routes.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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Mark Foecking November 14, 2012 | 8:35 a.m.

Ok, so let's just not do anything. Electricity just flows out of the ground anyway, right? It's magic, right? Let those people that don't want the lines deal with the eventual brownouts and blackouts.

Or maybe they can set up solar and wind systems to offset the increased need for power? I'm sure that would be just as popular as these power lines.

Or they could bury them, and the people complaining can pay the increased cost (it's about 4 times as expensive to bury lines as it is to put them on towers).

There's no way to get electricity to people without wires. It's one of those necessary evils - I think most people would eventually complain louder about not having reliable electricity. than about having a transmission line near their house.


(Report Comment)
Bill Weitkemper November 14, 2012 | 12:19 p.m.

"There's no way to get electricity to people without wires. It's one of those necessary evils - I think most people would eventually complain louder about not having reliable electricity. than about having a transmission line near their house."

Many of the people who are complaining about the proposed transmission line in front of their house will get no electricity from the new system because they are supplied electricity by Boone Electric Coop.

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger November 14, 2012 | 1:29 p.m.

From reading this article, a reader may conclude that the costs of this project will be borne by those most affected. Indeed, it seem that the majority of those who turned out for the meeting were those who fear their property values would decrease. It should be noted that the construction costs will be paid for with a bond issue, repaid by all Water & Light customers. Some of those affected are lobbying for the undergrounding of the wires: this will cost seven times more than above ground ($13 million v. $93 million). That translates to a monthly bump in everyone's electric bill of, in the above-ground option, $1.18; underground option, a bump of $8.26 -- over 20 years. Again, this is the effects on all rate payers, not just those along the routes.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks November 14, 2012 | 4:00 p.m.

Someone call Nikola Tesla we need wireless electric transmission STAT!

(Report Comment)

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