KENAI (AP) -- A proposed high-voltage line linking the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage could cross the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
A route across the refuge is one of two alternatives in a draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the project. The other route would run along the coast north of Nikiski before crossing Cook Inlet.
Utilities involved in the project want to run the power line through the refuge along an existing Enstar gas pipeline. But that route raised concerns about threats to habitat.
The Nikiski alternative, described as ''environmentally preferred,'' would follow a Tesoro right of way along a corridor removed from the refuge in 1963 to allow for utility lines. It would cost about 10 percent more to build.
''At this point in time, it appears as if the Tesoro route would be the least ecologically damaging,'' said Jim Hall, the assistant refuge manager. ''But we have to go through the public comment period.''
The proposed transmission line would improve Railbelt electric reliability and aid transfer of energy between the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage, according to the statement.
The Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the lead agency working on the impact statements, but other agencies, including the Kenai refuge, were involved.
The Enstar route would expand the current 50-foot-wide pipeline right of way to 250 feet and install aboveground transmission lines. The new 138-kilovolt line would run from Soldotna along the Sterling Highway to the juncture with the Enstar pipeline, then north through the refuge to the east side of Chickaloon Bay. Submarine cables would cross Turnagain Arm to the south end of Anchorage, then run to an existing substation.
The Tesoro route would run from Nikiski to Point Possession as an overhead line along the road to Captain Cook State Recreation Area.
It would cross Turnagain Arm, landing at Point Campbell. Underground cables along the Tesoro pipeline would take the line to the Point Woronzof substation.
Several options were eliminated in preparing the draft statement, including an upgrade of the existing power line.
Regarding the route through the refuge, the statement notes that ''the cumulative effects on wildlife, vegetation, recreation and visual resources within the KNWR along (the Enstar route) are considered to be long-term and significant.''
The transmission line is expected to cost about $100 million and take three years to build. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2004.
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