Columbia Discusses Overhead and Underground Transmission Plans

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Water & Light has finished collecting comments on transmission lines the city looks to build in the southern part of the city. The department is now generating the report and scheduling public hearings.

Ryan Williams, assistant director for Water & Light, said the survey had a good response with about 1,400 replies. The current project aims to solve two current problems, distribution and reliability issues.

The project has three alternative plans, Route A, Route B and Route B-2. The city is also thinking about building underground transmission lines.

Williams said the underground transmission lines would have no visual impact compared to overhead ones.They could also increase the reliability of the system, because weather and wild animals usually affect overhead lines.

However, Williams said underground lines are extremely expensive to build. They are seven times more expensive than the overhead ones. Total cost of the overhead project will be around $10-$13 million, but the underground project could be as expensive as $97 million.

Williams said the city has never had any transmission lines that are underground. "We don't have a whole lot of experience in the underground maintainence arena. That's something we will have to learn, if we are required to put them underground," Williams said.

Tom O'Connor, a member of the Water and Light Advisory Board, said residents who will not be affected by the project prefer overhead because it's cheaper. Those affected, however, typically want it underground.

O'Connor said he is not in favor of either of the plans. He said he believe that Columbia hasn't reached the time to construct these massive power lines. He says there are other alternatives to solve the current problems and save more money.

Cory Ridenhour, CEO of Ridenhour Management Services, said one of the plans designed the power line very near to the homes of his clients, where many young kids live there. He said if the city does choose one plan, transmission lines near neighborhoods should be buried underground to minimize the loss of reisidents' property values.

William said the general survey results show that about 50 percent of the citizens are willing to pay more on their bill to put these lines underground; whereas the other half want to install the most economically feasible option. His department also doesn't favor one over the other.

The Water & Light Department plans to tabulate the data in mid-March and to discuss it during April's city council meetings.

Maps and information about these routes can be found here.