Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Power lines are inappropriate for valley


Industrial-grade, metal double-stacked transmission/distribution utility poles along state Highway 75 up to 65 feet tall from the Hailey substation up to the hspital: That's what Idaho Power is planning for Blaine County.

Last Thursday night, representatives from the company showed pictures of what this would look like during a neighborhood meeting at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, and I asked them to share these pictures with the newspaper so residents could see what is coming. I don't think Idaho Power will be brave enough to do this. Our community has valued the view corridor from Highway 75, limiting houses on hillsides and wind turbines within sight of Highway 75. This string of massive industrial poles, which visitors would drive past on their way to Ketchum, would radically transform the ambience of our rural community.

And the thing is, this $5 million (estimated by representatives Thursday night) project is not going to accomplish what it's setting out to do: provide transmission redundancy to Sun Valley in case of a fire or avalanche. One set of transmission lines would be on Highway 75 on the west side of the Heatherlands subdivision and the other set on the east side. A fire could easily take out both—the entire Heatherlands subdivision was evacuated during the 2007 fire.

Idaho Power admits that the existing transmission line has enough capacity to handle the electrical load for decades. If it buried the existing transmission and distribution lines, there would be protection from fire and avalanche. Sure, burying the lines is expensive, but it could be financed long-term and paid for through a local improvement district for all Blaine County property owners.

Actually, all of Idaho benefits from the economic engine that tourism provides to our state—we export property-tax dollars to support education to the rest of Idaho. Killing our tourism golden goose with an engineer's industrial transmission solution is ludicrous. Investing in burying highly visible lines is smart.

Idaho Power also has rejected out-of-hand exploring any distributed generation—generating power through solar and geothermal sources near Ketchum, and storing this power in battery backup, technology that is available today.

Instead, Idaho Power is going to waste $5 million—which we as ratepayers will all pay for in higher electrical prices—on a project that will not accomplish true transmission protection and will blight the visual beauty that we and visitors value highly.

County commissioners, how can you pass an ordinance against small residential wind turbines in the view corridor and allow this to happen?


Kiki Tidwell is a resident of Hailey.

Editor's note: Look for coverage of the proposed power line in future editions of the Idaho Mountain Express.

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