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Proposed overhead powerlines could be more negative than positive

District 3 Yavapai County Supervisor Donna Michaels

District 3 Yavapai County Supervisor Donna Michaels

As Yavapai County supervisor for District 3, I offer and urge you to consider the following perspectives and recommendations regarding the Draft Environmental Assessment for the APS Oak Creek to McGuireville 69KV Power Line Project.

I sought and was elected to public office as District 3 supervisor on a platform that emphasized protecting our region’s environment, including maintaining open space and scenic vistas. The installation of miles of potentially unneeded overhead power lines in one of Arizona’s and the Nation’s most scenic areas does not meet that standard. In addition, doing so would introduce an extensive urban element into a rural setting, one that a majority of local citizens do not want to see. Once such a significant installation is made, it will impair the surrounding scenic vistas for decades.

While I clearly recognize the need to protect and provide more reliable electric service to McGuireville citizens and businesses, I must consider the larger, long-term interests and values of all of the citizens living in the county, Verde Valley and especially District 3. Among those interests and values, is avoiding the possible negative effect on property values and tourism that miles of new overhead lines would produce.

In order to satisfactorily address the issue, I recommend the following courses of action be fully explored:

  1. Burying the power line using the least impactful methods available. However, long-term and significant damage to the ground surface, plant and animal life will likely result regardless of the method. Also, as is now well-known, the risk of wildfires due to overhead power line malfunction is a factor that must be seriously considered, especially given the greater wildfire risk that exists in the sited area than in many other Arizona communities.

  2. Constructing a microgrid system or using back-up battery storage, or a combination of both.

  3. Determining if the USFS can execute a non-disclosure agreement with interested and appropriate parties as part of the environmental assessment process so they may review and provide feedback on what APS considers proprietary power data in the affected communities. Part of such an action would also include, of course, required compliance with relevant Forest Service rules. This course of action could better serve the USFS by having selected third parties objectively review the need for new powerlines under its planning rules for Forest-specific plan amendments. Finally, this option would either help corroborate APS’s assessment of costs of a microgrid or battery storage system or indicate which (or a combination of the two) might be most cost effective in the long-term.

In summary, I have and will continue to vigorously support the long-term protection of the region’s natural environment and the values of a majority of its citizens that embrace their desire to maintain scenic values and environmental integrity.

In this spirit, I look forward to an enhanced alternative to providing more reliable electric power service to the citizens and businesses in the Village of Oak Creek to McGuireville communities most impacted by this power line project.

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