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For the week of Nov. 10, 1999 through Nov. 16, 1999

St. Luke’s decides not to cut through bicycle path

Idaho Power and hospital look for ways to route power

Express Staff Writer

n10wire1.jpg (15652 bytes)Power lines near the Kentwood Lodge could very well be put underground if the Ketchum City Council has its way when Idaho Power routes power to the new St. Luke’s Hospital in McHanville. The front utility pole is the southern juncture between high load and medium load power lines. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

St. Luke’s Hospital officials, apparently taking into consideration community sentiment, have decided not to cut through Wood River Valley’s bicycle path during construction of the new hospital’s water and sewer lines.

Separately, new electric power lines and power poles, to be channeled to the hospital’s McHanville site, may be routed through downtown Ketchum.

On the bike path issue, hospital engineers told the county’s recreation district, which has jurisdiction over the bike network, that temporary trenching through the path would be less expensive than boring under it.

Bill Bodnar, Boise-based spokesman for the hospital, said the bike path decision to use a more expensive boring route was made Monday morning.

"Anytime you have a project like this you have to consider how you can reduce any negative impact (in the community)," he said in a telephone conversation.

Bodnar, the hospital’s vice president for corporate development, said that boring under the bike path would occur at five separate locations so that nearby wetlands areas wouldn’t be disturbed.

Trenching through the path to reach the area’s sewage plant had caused Mary Austin Crofts, the county’s recreation district director, to say the operation could cause paving problems.

On the issue of bringing power to the hospital, Dan Olmstead, Idaho Power community relations representative, said St. Luke’s will need electric power by next fall, and that means upgrades to power lines on one of two routes will be necessary.

Upgrades will involve installing a heavier wire, capable of carrying more power, and installing additional power poles to accommodate the weight of the heavier lines.

The hospital’s power can be supplied by either the Waterwheel substation, on the south side of Sun Valley Road near Sun Valley Co.’s Horseman’s Center, or by the Elkhorn substation, on the Elkhorn golf course.

If supplied by the Waterwheel substation, the existing overhead power lines would need to be upgraded between Walnut Avenue Mall and the southeast corner of the Kentwood Lodge in Ketchum. If supplied by the Elkhorn substation, upgrades to the substation itself may be necessary, Olmstead said, adding that Idaho Power engineers are still ironing out wrinkles in the Elkhorn option.

Olmstead said Idaho Power prefers the Waterwheel alternative for two reasons.

First, the majority of the existing power lines between the Waterwheel substation and the new St. Luke’s site can already support the electric loads the hospital will require. It’s the route with the least amount of line to replace, Olmstead said.

Second, he said, the through-Ketchum method would cost less. He explained that it is Idaho Power’s policy to offer customers the cheapest alternatives, and St. Luke’s is paying for upgrades to the power lines in this case.

Olmstead said it will cost $50,000 to $70,000 to replace the section of line between Walnut Avenue Mall and the Kentwood Lodge. But if upgrades to that section of power line are carried out, it’s likely that the Ketchum City Council will require the lines to be put underground. If those lines were to be put underground, the cost would jump to between $150,000 and $200,000, Olmstead said.

At a city council meeting last week, Councilman David Hutchinson said the power lines will either be buried through Ketchum or power will be supplied from Elkhorn.

"That ought to give you a pretty good indication of how it’s going to go," he said.

The city of Ketchum currently does not have a franchise agreement with Idaho Power. Such agreements allow the power provider to operate in the city’s rights of way without consultation with the city. As part of an effort to make such an agreement, the Ketchum City Council is negotiating with Idaho Power to have all of the city’s power lines eventually put underground.

In the absence of the agreement, Idaho Power will have to go to the city council for approval of any modifications or upgrades to power lines made within the city’s rights of way.


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