COLUMBIA — The Columbia Water and Light Department has extended the deadline for comment on three proposed Mill Creek substation transmission plans to encourage more input.
The original Dec. 31 deadline for public comment has been pushed back to Feb. 1.
"We are not looking for a specific answer," said Adam Schuttler, an engineer at the department. "We just want more feedback."
The city plans to build one of the proposed designs to meet increased demand on its power grid and enhance its reliability to meet federal regulations.
Load growth in south Columbia has reached capacity, and the utility needs to reduce the load and avoid stiff federal fines, according to department documents.
"We are hitting two birds with one stone, with one project," Schuttler said. "We are increasing the load-serving capacity and fixing the reliability issue."
Most of the public input has come from those in the path of the proposed routes, said David Storvick, a manager at the utility.
The project, however, will affect Water and Light customers through rate increases.
"We're trying to get a broader sweep of opinion that would include everyone who would be affected," Storvick said.
Each of the three routes can be built either underground or overhead, although an underground plan would be considerably more expensive.
The city's utility customers will bear the cost over 20 years. The cost increase per month for each customer over two decades for the overhead system ranges from 91 cents to $1.18, depending on the route chosen.
For the underground plan, it would cost between $6.82 and $8.77 more per month per customer over 20 years, again depending on which route is selected.
To solicit more feedback, the department plans to mail letters to its 35,000 electricity consumers for delivery this week. The letters will include background information on the routes and an invitation to provide input on the online feedback form.
Customers can also call the department and request a printed form with the same due date.
The proposed power lines are designed to serve 46,000 customers.