Tempe may ask Salt River
Project to bury a proposed high-voltage
power line that has some Kyrene Corridor
residents fuming about their property
values and views if the utility hangs
the new line on poles along portions of
The question is: Who will pay to bury
Burying a 69-kilovolt power line like
the one proposed in the Kyrene Corridor
could cost 10 times as much as stringing
it on poles, according to SRP officials.
The utility’s policy is to erect new
69-kV lines above ground on either wood
or steel poles. New lines are buried
only if someone other than SRP bears the
extra cost. Someone with deep pockets,
like a city.
SRP plans to string a new 69-kV power
line from the Hanger Substation near
Guadalupe and Price roads to the Houston
substation on McClintock just north of
Ray Road. There is no direct connection
between those two substations today.
The planned power line will provide
electricity for portions of Tempe, Mesa,
and Chandler. SRP says it needs the new
line to meet demand that is expected to
exceed existing capacity by the summer
Existing lines in the area operate at up
to 90 percent capacity, according to
Frank Lamphere, SRP systems design
“It was very close to 100 percent this
summer,” he said.
Lamphere said power demand is projected
to reach 108 percent of existing
capacity by the summer of 2007.
“We can’t operate with that kind of
overload,” he said.
The Houston Substation, built more than
a decade ago, receives its power via an
existing overhead line from the east on
There are no overhead power lines, large
or small, extending north from the
Houston Substation along McClintock
Five of six routes being considered by
SRP use McClintock Drive to reach the
Houston Substation, however. All would
require SRP to erect new wood or steel
power poles along parts of McClintock.
The idea of adding power
poles along McClintock south of
Guadalupe Road concerns some residents
and city officials.
Tempe staff has met with
SRP staff to “try to mitigate the
negative impacts” of the proposed power
line, according to Tempe Assistant City
Manager Jeff Kulaga.
“Will we consider the
underground option? Yes,” he said.
But “we’ve got to
understand the cost aspects,” Kulaga
Tempe has spent more than
$3 million since the mid-1990s burying
smaller power lines along McClintock
Drive north of the Houston Substation
and on other streets in the area, Kulaga
SRP’s proposal for a
major new overhead line between the
Hanger and Houston substations “defeats
the purpose of this investment for our
community benefit,” he said.
Ironically, the money
spent burying the smaller power lines
came from a special SRP “aesthetics
fund” in which the utility sets aside
money to be used by communities to
minimize the visual impact of SRP’s
massive power grid. Tempe recently also
spent some of that fund burying power
lines in the northern reaches of the
city, Kulaga noted.
SRP’s various route
options use portions of Guadalupe,
Elliot, Warner or Ray roads to reach
McClintock from the Hanger Substation on
Price Road. One option would use the
Western Canal to carry the power line
between Price Road and McClintock.
The only option being
promoted by SRP that does not depend
heavily on McClintock Drive is Option F,
which would use the Arizona Department
of Transportation’s Loop 101
right-of-way from Guadalupe Road to Ray
Road and follow the path of existing
power poles along Ray between Loop 101
If the Option F Loop 101-Ray Road route
were chosen, the existing wood poles
along Ray Road likely would be replaced
by taller steel poles, according to
Some on the Tempe
engineering staff had suggested SRP use
existing power poles on Dobson Road in
Mesa to carry the proposed 69-kV line
between Guadalupe and Ray roads. That
plan would have kept the planned 69-kV
line out of Tempe entirely, but would
have been several miles longer and was
not listed among the routes proposed by
SRP has not yet conducted
an easement analysis to determine the
costs and feasibility of individual
route options, according to Lamphere.
However, SRP knows it would have to
contend with its own underground 56-inch
waterline and an underground nitrogen
pipeline owned by Air Products if it
tries to erect power poles along the
Loop 101 under Option F, he said.
The cost to bury
high-voltage power lines can be
Typically, a 69-kilovolt
line costs about $250,000 per mile to
build on poles and eight to ten times
that amount to bury, which means it
could cost $2.5 million per mile to put
the new line underground, he said.
SRP’s route options range
from 3.8 miles to about 4.3 miles, he
said. The Loop 101 corridor (Option F)
is the longest option at 4.3 miles, he
Using SRP’s rough
estimate of $2.5 million per mile, that
means it could cost $10.75 million to
bury the proposed power line in the Loop
101 corridor between Guadalupe and Ray
roads and along Ray Road between Price
and the Houston substation near
SRP spokesman Scott
Harelson said the possibility of burying
the proposed line is “primarily a
financial issue” but also could become a
matter of timing because of the extra
work and materials needed to bury the
SRP has fifteen 69-kV
power line projects planned across the
Valley to keep up with increasing demand
for electricity, Harelson said.
The only way any of those
lines will be buried is “if there is a
funding mechanism that will pay the
difference,” he said.
SRP is hosting an Open
House on Nov. 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
at Aprende Middle School, 777 N. Desert
Breeze Blvd., in Chandler to explain its
proposal and take public comment.
The initial Open House,
on Oct. 27 in Tempe, proved contentious.
Bob Harness, a retired
Tempe official, said, “I was the first
person there and the last one out the
door” at the Oct. 27 Open House. He
didn’t leave happy.
“It was two hours of lies,” Harness
“The burden is falling on residents of
Tempe for power I don’t believe is
necessary or needed here,” Harness said.
“It makes no sense to me that they (SRP)
are doing this at this time,” he said,
noting that much of Tempe already is
“It’s power they want to carry on east,
perhaps as far as Queen Creek,” Harness
said of SRP’s plan to upgrade its power
grid in southeast Tempe.
SRP’s Lamphere said there is about 500
acres of undeveloped land in the area
that will be served by the new power
line. That service area crosses several
city boundaries, he said.
The only acceptable plan for a new power
line is “everything underground,”
Harness said. He said he has emailed his
concerns to Tempe officials.
“It’s the esthetics of the street,”
Harness said of his opposition to
overhead power lines. “This is a nice
“It doesn’t really affect me directly,
but it affects a lot of people I know
and it affects my town. And it’s not the
right thing,” he said.
“It’s safety, esthetics and property
values,” said J.J. Camptell, summarizing
his complaints with SRP’s plan after the
Oct. 27 meeting.
Five of the six proposed routes run by
his home, Camptell said.
“This easement would probably be in my
back yard,” he said.
Camptell said SRP officials at the open
house specifically said the utility will
not bear the cost of burying the
proposed line “but they left open the
possibility of residents paying for it.”
He believes the extra
power is needed for commercial, not
residential, users. “They (commercial
users) should be footing the bill for
this to go underground, not residents,”
“There needs to be some organizing among
the residents” to unify opposition to
SRP’s plan, he said.
SRP’s Lamphere said the
utility hopes to make a decision on the
power line by the first week of January.
He said construction could take up to
four months if the line if built
overhead and approximately six months if
it is buried.