Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Idaho Power plan cut down to size

Hailey substation towers reduced by half

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Power Co. can move ahead with additions to an electrical substation between the bike path and Sixth Avenue in Hailey, but first it will have to remove a 47-foot steel structure installed without a permit last fall.

Company representatives said the upgrade was initiated to increase reliability and reduce power outages in Hailey, Bellevue and parts of the south county.

When finished, the upgrade will include installation of five new poles, ranging upwards of 40 feet in height, to carry electrical lines into the facility.

Earlier this month, nearby residents packed City Hall to complain about visual impacts, electromagnetic fields and buzzing noises emanating from the facility. They also took issue with the sudden appearance of a 47-foot tall "dead end" structure that suddenly appeared on the site.

Idaho Power representative Mike Barrie was instructed to work with city staff in establishing parameters for third-party review of the current upgrade design plans, and explore alternative designs that could satisfy the needs of the utility company as well as of those living near the facility.

But Idaho Power came up with an acceptable solution of its own by Monday's City Council meeting.

Barrie presented a plan to reduce the height of the "dead end" structure to 28 feet by installing three accessory poles within the substation boundary. He said the new configuration will limit truck access within the south end of the facility.

"But that is something we can live with," he said.

Idaho Power was granted a conditional use permit for the new design, as well as design review approval Monday, but the company will have to pitch in quite a bit more to maintain the facility than it has in the past.

The permit was granted on condition that Idaho Power work with the nearby homeowners' association on landscaping plans for the west side of the facility, build new fences on the south side and repaint the substation building. The company will also have to fix the buzzing noise.

Barrie was also instructed to consult with the Hailey Planning Department prior to making any changes to the substation in the future.

"Everyone would have felt better if a plan like this had come in from the beginning," said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Michael Pogue.

Tony Evans:

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