The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Avalanche prone t-line needs to move

CVEA in discussions with DNR on relocating line out of danger zone


Rendering courtesy of CVEA

This rendering shows option 7B, with power poles to the left of the Richardson Highway-which do not currently exist. The proposal before DNR would place the transmission line further from the road to the left. The overall view faces south, as you head towards Valdez.

It is time to relocate four miles of electrical transmission lines located on Thompson Pass that have been damaged by avalanches five times in the last 26 years, according to the board of Copper Valley Electric Association, CVEA.

“These five avalanches have caused the line to be out of service for a total of 60 weeks, or 420 service days,” the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) said in a notice published April 18. “The proposed amendment is desired in order to re-route the portion of the line that currently crosses avalanche-prone terrain in the Thompson Pass area.”

The lines in question are located between Mileposts 27 and 30 along the Richardson Highway and are under the jurisdiction of DNR. In order to move the lines, DNR requires a long permitting process, which includes gathering public input.

DNR and CVEA are holding a joint “public informational meeting” on the relocation this Tuesday, May 1, at the Valdez Civic Center at 6 p.m. A second meeting for Copper Basin residents is slated for Wednesday, May 2, at 6 p.m. at the Caribou Restaurant.

The board has been looking at the troublesome line locations for years, but were unable to act on moving the lines - part of what is known formally as the Solomon Gulch transmission line – because since 1982 they were actually owned by the Four Dam Pool Power Agency (FDPPA), not CVEA.

When FDPPA was dissolved a few years ago it turned over its Valdez assets to CVEA, including the lines in question.

It had been the policy of FDPPA to simply repair the lines when damaged. CVEAs board has decided to move them out of harm’s way instead. The costs to repair and replace damaged lines in the area since 1988 has ranged from $205,000 in 2009 to a whopping $1.5 million back in 1988.

According to DNR, two relocation options are up for discussion, 2A and 7B.

“Two options are proposed, both of which are located to the west of Richardson Highway,” a DNR notice said. “Option 2A will diverge with the current line at Milepost 27, and return to it near Milepost 30.5. 2A is expected to be approximately 4.4 miles long, covering 52.75 acres, and will fall in the area between Richardson Highway and the Alyeska Pipeline, extending north to the west of the airstrip, and turning east on the ridge to the north of the airstrip.”

The second option, 7B, would have less of a visual impact on the scenic area outside the Worthington Glacier.

“It’s even further outside the view shed,” Chris Botulinski said.

Botulinski is currently CVEAs manager of transmission and distribution.

There are pros and cons to both proposed relocation areas according to CVEA.

Option 2A offers “Individual preference for a far perspective,” according to CVEA, and will also not interfere with DOTs avalanche mitigation efforts.

However, it has its downside.

“The transmission line would create a new obstruction for winter recreation on the west side of the highway,” CVEA said.

Option 7B – which appears to be CVEAs preferred option - also has its pros and cons.

Source: CVEA avalanche mitigation study

Rendering of view shed impact for options 2A and 2B

“Both sides of …Thompson Pass would be freed from the transmission line as an obstacle to recreation,” CVEA said in its list of pluses.

It also says option 7B will be less obtrusive than the existing frames and if the pullout for vehicular traffic is improved so will the view available for photography, an important draw to the area.

“It is readily acknowledged that Thompson Pass is a scenic location,” CVEA said on its website. “CVEA is taking…steps to minimize the visual impact of the transmission line for Option 7B.”

Tuesday night’s meeting is open to the public and anyone hoping to learn more about the project is encouraged to attend the meeting.

Additional information is also available on the websites of CVEA and DNR.


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