FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Saying he couldn't justify a change, Resources Commissioner Pat Pourchot gave his final approval to a controversial route for a power line through the Tanana Flats.
Pourchot's decision Thursday came six years after Golden Valley Electric Association applied for the permits to build the 100-mile Healy-to-Fairbanks power line.
The route has been bitterly opposed by environmentalists and others who said the line would disrupt the view and hurt the environment. They also say alternatives were never seriously considered.
Pourchot commissioned three reports from staff and two firms to address concerns. He used that information and previously generated information to make Thursday's decision, he said.
Golden Valley officials applauded Pourchot's choice. The company wants to build the 230 kilovolt line to boost an existing 33-year old line.
''No matter which viewpoint you hold, it's been a challenging task for all, involving tough compromise,'' Mike Kelly, GVEA project manager, said. ''GVEA now faces the serious task of stewardship.''
Members of the GVEA Ratepayers Alliance, one group that fought to keep the line off the flats, took the news hard.
''I've traveled all over the world and I've seen the world trashed for profit,'' Stacey Fritz, spokeswomen for the GVEA Ratepayers Alliance, said. ''I think the Tanana Flats deserve more then that.''
Pourchot said he based his decision on several points. The impacts on the Tanana Flats do not outweigh the substantially increased costs, delays and additional impacts associated with a new routing, he said.
Opponents of the Tanana Flats route said the power line would impact fens, a unique type of wetlands. Pourchot said studies indicate the impact to the fens would be negligible.
The flats are far from untouched by man and the power line would only cross less then one percent of the flats total two million acres, Pourchot said.
Kelly said GVEA would resume building the intertie as soon as possible. The company cleared six miles of federal right-of-way near Anderson last summer.
Last July then Natural Resources Commissioner John Shively issued a decision that gave the state's approval for the route favored by Golden Valley. Shively was asked to reconsider his decision by Gov. Tony Knowles in August.
Shively stepped down in September and passed the final decision to incoming commissioner Pourchot.
Community leaders approved of Pourchot's decision.
''I'm happy, I think the process worked and that's what it's all about,'' said Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles.
City of Fairbanks Mayor Jim Hayes said Pourchot's selection of the route was the right decision.
''We wanted quicker, cheaper and faster and this route does all of that,'' he said. ''So it was a very, very good decision.''
Opponents have 30 days from March 1 to file an appeal of the decision.
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