Power lines have area residents taking sides
Most residents hope 'preferred' route for new high-power lines is chosen by siting board
Area residents stood up last week against one proposed route for a new major power line they say would encroach on their properties as the project speeds toward approval this spring.
More than 100 concerned residents packed a Jan. 7 meeting of the Ohio Power Siting Board, held at the Pleasant Valley fire station in Plain City, to voice concerns over various routes proposed by Akron-based First Energy for a new 46-mile transmission line stretching from Clark County to Delaware County.
Pending approval, the line will run east from Springfield to London, then turn northeast and run along U.S. Route 42 before terminating just south of the city of Delaware.
First Energy has revealed two potential routes for the line: a "preferred" route and an alternate route, which traces the same general path as the preferred route but runs slightly to the east before tracking west near the Delaware-Union county line to terminate at the same location.
Officials with First Energy said the $28-million line will enhance the reliability of service in the surrounding areas and make way for future economic development.
In the works since 2011, the 138,000-volt transmission line would be supported by 80- to 100-foot-tall poles along the duration of the route chosen by the Ohio Power Siting Board, a state commission that reviews and approves new power lines.
This month, staff members who report to the board handed down a recommendation to pick First Energy's preferred route.
"(The recommendation) is based on the ecological impact it would have on surface waters, vegetation, endangered species in the area of the project (and) its impact on geology and soil. It runs the gamut," siting board spokesman Matt Butler said.
He said the impact on public services and safety also is considered.
The siting board could make a decision as early as March and construction could start this year, with the power line expected to be operational by summer 2014.
Thomas Prestera of Concord Township leads a group of 25 Delaware County residents pressing for the adoption of the preferred route.
Prestera said the route cuts across fewer private properties and runs along existing power-line corridors more often than the alternate route -- the segment stretching from London to Delaware County has about 70 percent of its length in common with existing utility lines, compared with 20 percent for the alternate route.
Just four residences sit within 100 feet of the preferred route, compared with 20 along the alternate route. First Energy would spend more money to secure more rights of way along the alternate route. Officials said the alternate route would cost about $5 million more to construct.
Prestera also points out the preferred route has less potential for negative environmental impact, according to studies by siting board staff.
"We're hoping (the board) will agree the preferred route is the better of the two routes," he said. "It runs along existing corridors and has minimal environmental impact."
"We're cautiously optimistic," he added.
At the Jan. 7 meeting, Greg Barcus also put his support behind the preferred route. He said the alternate route runs directly through his backyard.
"In that case, I can no longer develop on it and I can't give it to my kids to build on. It changes our lives dramatically," he said. "We understand the need for power, but there are other ways of doing it, we think."
But Kirk McLinn of Plain City said he's more negatively affected by the preferred route, which would run near the east side of his house.
"Having that much power running through those lines would create a lot more noise and directly impact the value of my home," McLinn said.
The preferred route has the support of some local officials. The Delaware County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in favor of the route in June 2012.