FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Golden Valley Electric Association planned to begin construction of its Northern Intertie route Tuesday, two weeks before the state was scheduled to issue a final ruling on the project.
The intertie has come under fire from groups who say it will mar the view of the Tanana Flats.
Golden Valley officials announced Monday they will begin clearing right-of-way land along the federal land portion of the route.
''They're taking a certain amount of risk,'' said John Shively, commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources.
The response period to Shively's ''best interest finding,'' which endorsed Golden Valley's preferred route ends Aug. 14. Shiveley then could allow his original ruling to stand or he could tell Golden Valley find some other alternatives for the intertie route. He also could do nothing for 10 days and the finding would take effect.
Golden Valley Electric said it gained the necessary federal clearances to begin building the intertie on federal lands while the state continues its review. The intertie will cross federal, state and private lands.
Critics of the project contend the utility could find some cost-effective alternatives to the planned route.
Members of GVEA Ratepayers Alliance expressed shock over the electric co-op's decision to go ahead with the project.
''That would be the height of folly,'' said Sean McGuire, a member of the alliance. ''I don't think the public wants this.''
McGuire's group wants Shively to consider a recently released report by the former vice president of a California electrical company. The report, which cites other cost-effective alternatives, was not included in public testimony because it was issued after the final comment period closed.
The current comment period is only for those who previously testified.
The utility made plans to build a new electrical line to replace an aging system and keep up with customer demands nearly a decade ago. The process has taken six years to move through the Department of Natural Resources, and has been delayed by public hearings, lawsuits and appeals.
Golden Valley officials have said the Tanana Flats was the least expensive route.
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