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Online Exclusive Story:
Hundreds turn out to debate SRP plan
By Doug Snover

November 19, 2005

Salt River Project’s second “open house” to explain why the utility needs to string a new high-voltage power line through the Kyrene Corridor turned quickly into a call for citizens and city officials to hold a different kind of meeting to tell SRP decision makers exactly where to put the proposed line.

The tenor of the open house changed quickly as hundreds of residents from Tempe and Chandler filled the library at Aprende Middle School and began debating with SRP representatives on the need for the new power line, SRP’s proposed routes, and--most of all--whether the line should be strung on poles or buried.

Gil Olachea, a longtime Tempe resident, climbed on a chair and addressed the more than 300 residents, complaining that SRP was using “divide and conquer” tactics and urging residents to unify in opposition to the proposed line.

“We want to be treated with respect,” he said.

Olachea later explained that he wanted to get the residents “talking among themselves” rather than in small groups with SRP officials. He called for a different kind of meeting at which SRP “decision makers” would hear residents’ concerns.

Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn and Councilman Matt Orlando quickly agreed, promising to work with Tempe officials to set up such a meeting.

Dunn ordered Chandler officials to begin posting information about the power line on the city’s website,

Information about the SRP power line issue was posted by Friday morning.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and Councilman Len Copple arrived later in the two-hour open house.

“The two communities need to work in partnership,” Hallman said as he talked with Dunn.

Olachea, who started the call for a third public meeting on the SRP plan, said he blames the cities more than SRP for residents’ frustration in finding out about the utility’s plan almost too late to do anything about it.

“SRP is not the culprit here in my mind,” he told Wrangler News. “I think SRP went to the municipalities and asked for assistance and the municipalities said you’re on your own.”

SRP says it needs the new 69-kilovolt power line to serve parts of Tempe, Chandler and Mesa before demand exceeds capacity as soon as summer 2007.

SRP has identified six possible routes along which it could string the new line between the Hanger substation near Guadalupe and Price roads and the Houston substation on McClintock just north of Ray Road. Five of the six route options use McClintock Drive, which has no overhead power lines today.

SRP’s corporate policy is to build new 69-kV power lines overhead unless the affected community agrees to pay the extra cost to bury them. Putting 69-kV lines underground could cost $3 million per mile, or about 10 times the cost of string the lines on poles, according to SRP.

SRP showed maps at its Nov. 16 open house of the “Corbell” service area where it says power demand threatens to exceed capacity by 2007.

The Corbell area, according to the maps offered at the open house, is bounded roughly by Baseline Road to the north, Pecos Road to the south, Cooper Road to the east and Rural Road to the west. Numerous substations in the Corbell area, including the Hanger and Houston substations, receive their electricity from the Corbell receiving station northeast of Arizona Avenue and Elliot Road.

SRP says there are about 1,500 acres of undeveloped land within the Corbell area. Demand for electricity will grow as that land is developed, the utility notes.

Most of the undeveloped land is east of Arizona Avenue and south of Ray Road, according to SRP’s maps and aerial photographs on display at the open house.

Many residents at the open house questioned why SRP will not string the new line on existing poles on Dobson and Ray roads.

“The poles are there. The lines are there,” said one woman who asked not to be identified.

SRP officials said using Dobson Road would add two miles to the connection between the Hanger and Houston substations and might not be technically feasible because of the type of poles and power lines already there.

Dunn, who said SRP’s plan to string power lines through much of south Tempe is a “surprise,” drew cheers from frustrated residents when he said, “There is an issue that would take most of our problems away and that is undergrounding.”

“These are issues that can only be addressed with that condition perhaps,” Dunn said.

Residents with questions or comments about the project can SRP at (602) 236-2872 or send e-mail to

To find out more about SRP's Hanger-Houston 69-kV project, click on




Photos by David Stone





























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