Engineer's report on Northern Intertie rejected

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The state's independent engineering firm has rejected much of a California engineer's report that offered alternative routes to the Northern Intertie.

R.W. Beck disagreed with the approach and assumptions made by the report's author, William Mazotti, according to Department of Natural Resources Commissioner John Shively. Shively is taking a second look at his earlier decision to uphold the route of the proposed Healy-to-Fairbanks line.

''The real debate is 'Do you have enough right of way to build on the existing route?'' Shively said. ''Therefore, how much land do you have to go out and buy and how much that will cost is a real issue.''

While refusing to go into detail about the R.W. Beck review, Shively said the firm found fault with Mazotti's opinions on adequate tower height, right-of-way placement and arctic conditions. Mazotti, a former vice president of Pacific Gas and Electric, was hired by the GVEA Ratepayers Alliance. The alliance opposes building a portion of the power line across the Tanana Flats, saying it will spoil the ''pristine view.''

R.W. Beck did a previous study for the state regarding the Intertie, finding that the Tanana Flats route was the best. The alliance criticized the report and commissioned its own. Shively asked Beck to take a look at the Mazotti report as part of his review process.

R.W. Beck agreed with Mazotti on one point, Shively said. Mazotti wrote that R.W. Beck, in its first report, did not fully address aircraft safety. Mazotti stated that collisions with electrical wires account for 7 to 8 percent of aircraft accidents.

Golden Valley Electric Association has proposed building the 100-mile, 230-kilovolt power line to meet rising demand in Fairbanks and to replace its existing 33-year-old line. The utility has been working on the issue for 10 years, six within the Department of Natural Resources permitting process.

Crews cleared six miles of right of way on federal land beginning Aug. 1. But GVEA officials postponed clearing an additional 40 miles last week, saying the utility will wait for the commissioner's decision.

Shively last week officially granted reconsideration to his July 25 ''best interest finding.'' Reconsideration means the commissioner is reviewing comments to his finding, which favored building the line with a portion crossing the Tanana Flats.

Shively could decide to let his original finding stand or make changes to his decision. If he changes the route, GVEA president George Kitchens has said it could cost the company millions.

The commissioner is not bound to act by a deadline but hopes to conclude the matter before he leaves his job Sept. 8. Otherwise the decision would be left with newly appointed commissioner Pat Pourchot, who said he plans to read Shively's 80-page finding over the next few days.

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