Utility responds to state's Intertie information request

Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A utility here is beginning to show some impatience with delays by Knowles administration in signing off on the route of the Northern Intertie.

Golden Valley Electric Association officials told Natural Resources Commissioner Pat Pourchot in a recent letter that most of the information he wants from the utility was available in previously generated reports.

Pourchot is weighing state approval of a high-voltage power line. The information will help him decide the line's fate, he said.

''I'm sure they feel they've been gone through this and more,'' Pourchot said Monday.

A state ''best-interest finding'' was released in July that went along with building a power line across the Tanana Flats. But a ratepayers group and others disagreed, saying that route would mar the scenery.

Gov. Tony Knowles issued a directive for the state to reconsider its decision after a public outcry over the finding.

Golden Valley Electric has been trying to gain permission from state and federal agencies to build the 100-mile, high-voltage line from Healy to Fairbanks. It would augment an existing line.

The proposal has undergone extensive governmental reviews over the past six years. It already has gained the necessary approval and permits for crossing federal lands, including the Tanana Flats.

In October, Pourchot asked Golden Valley officials to provide information in three areas: the costs, impacts and benefits associated with routes that avoid the Tanana Flats; details about how much it would cost to bring the route across town from Gold Hill to South Cushman, and how much impact to the view and the wetlands the power line would have if it ran across the flats.

Golden Valley President George Kitchens answered Pourchot with a letter addressing the three requests after detailing the six-year history of the utility's application to the state for a right-of-way permit.

To the first item, Kitchens told Pourchot it was inappropriate for Golden Valley to develop a route when one already has been agreed upon by the BLM and the state.

''It is the sole responsibility of the agencies to find an appropriate route that accommodates the needs of this cooperative and at the same time allows for appropriate land management,'' Kitchens wrote.

About the second item, Kitchens said no further study of a cross-town route was needed. Such a route would pose significant security risks, and a natural disaster or an act of terrorism could lead to major power outage, he said.

''Again, you are attempting to place Golden Valley in the awkward position of proposing or eliminating a route or route segment,'' Kitchens wrote. ''Route selection should be the sole responsibility of the land manager through the public process.''

Lastly, BLM's environmental impact statement addressed the visual and wetlands impact to the Tanana Flats, Kitchens said.

The methods used by BLM and a contractor to analyze the visual impacts are nationally approved procedures, Kitchens wrote. The state doesn't have a procedure to do those evaluations, he said.

''It is inappropriate for Golden Valley, the permit applicant, to develop a methodology for use on federally-managed lands which has already been analyzed using the BLM protocols,'' Kitchens wrote.

Pourchot told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he wouldn't argue with Golden Valley's points but instead will concentrate on finding answers. ''My approach now is not to debate that question. Let's move on.''

Steve Haagenson, GVEA vice president of transmission and distribution, said the utility will help the Knowles administration as much as it can.

''We think the information he needs is available to him (Pourchot),'' Haagenson said. ''We're supporting the DNR effort to get the information they need to make a decision.''

''We're waiting for them to make a determination. ... I think it's time to make a decision.''

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