Web posted Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Chugach wins approval for power line


ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Construction could begin next year on a long-planned $100 million electric power transmission line from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula.

Chugach Electric Association of Anchorage said it received a final, favorable decision Oct. 9 from the federal government on an environmental impact statement for the project.

Joe Griffith, Chugach's general manager, said he plans to meet with five other utilities soon to reach an agreement on sharing costs for the new power line.

In addition to Chugach, other utilities that would buy power from the new line include Golden Valley Electric Association of Fairbanks, Matanuska Electric Association of Palmer, Municipal Light and Power of Anchorage, Homer Electric Association of Homer and the City of Seward.

''We hope to be under construction next year,'' Griffith told the board of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Oct. 10.

The new transmission line will give Chugach Electric Association a backup to an existing Quartz Creek power line. That power line is vulnerable to avalanches and is frequently out of service during bad weather, Dora Gropp, Chugach's manager for transmission projects, told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Chugach said it received a final decision Oct. 9 from the Rural Utilities Services, the federal lead agency on the environmental impact statement analyzing two routes for the power line.

The Rural Utilities Services gave its blessing to a 61-mile route that generally follows a pipeline operated by Tesoro Alaska Petroleum Corp., over a shorter 38-mile route that crosses the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and follows a natural gas pipeline operated by Enstar Natural Gas.

The ''Tesoro'' route will cost $10 million more than the shorter ''Enstar'' route, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused a permit for the power line to cross the refuge. Chugach said it preferred the shorter route across the Kenai refuge but said it would accept the route that was approved.

If the cost-sharing plan is signed by the six participating utilities, design and engineering will be completed and construction will begin, said Griffith. There are additional wetlands permits and archaeological studies to do along the final right of way, and there is always the chance of litigation that could delay the project.

If all goes as planned, the new transmission line will be in operation in 2006, she said. The existing Quartz Creek transmission line was built in 1959.

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