Wednesday, June 14, 2006

SV power lines may go underground

Express Staff Writer

A citizens' initiative to bury power lines in Sun Valley may prompt the city to bury all the city's power lines.

"If we are going to do it, let's do it," Sun Valley Councilman Blair Boand said.

The Sun Valley City Council heard comments during a special meeting Monday, June 12, from proponents for placing power lines underground along Juniper Road in Sun Valley.

Sun Valley resident Franz Suhadolnik first approached the council in May with an initiative to replace the current overhead line in Sun Valley's Twin Creeks subdivision and place the power lines underground.

Following a request for more information, Suhadolnik returned for direction from the council as to how to finance the project. Suhadolnik and Lloyd Betts, on behalf of a client, had previously approached the council to explore how neighbors should go about forming a local improvement district to pay for the improvements. Direction from the city is needed as to which property owners should pay for the project and how to proportion the costs as the visual benefits are shared throughout the community.

The council identified four property owner groups that could potentially pay for improvements. The groups include property owners directly under the power lines, Twin Creeks drainage area property owners, Sun Valley Elkhorn Association members or all Sun Valley property owners.

"My bias is, this a benefit for the entire city," Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson said.

The debate prompted the council to consider expanding the project to other areas of the city, such as near the Bitterroot and Lane Ranch subdivisions.

"The direction for policy setting has really been set by the comprehensive plan. In the comp plan we want to underground power lines," Thorson said.

To evaluate the initial feasibility of the project, Suhadolnik and Brooke Peterson retained Hailey-based Power Engineers to complete an engineering, feasibility and cost study for the project. The study estimates a cost of more than $2 million per mile, which would be shared among property owners. The costs per mile go down as more miles are installed due to fixed costs associated with the project.

Placing high-voltage feeder lines underground would be Idaho Power Co.'s first such project in the state, said Councilman Nils Ribi. Similar projects have been completed elsewhere in the country and the world.

To move forward with the initiative, the council requested more information on costs and requested a meeting with Idaho Power.

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