February 6, 2005
Public outcry has slowed Arizona Public Service Co.’s timetable for determining where it will build transmission facilities to meet growing power needs in the north East Valley.
The utility had hoped to have locations set by now for three additional power stations in the north Scottsdale area. The decision won’t be made for at least another several months, the company wrote in response to objections by Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross and other city officials.
The APS letter notes that since announcing its plans last summer, the company has received several hundred responses from Scottsdale residents and officials, many objecting to the negative environmental impact the facilities could have on neighborhoods and the city’s land preserve.
APS will take more time gathering public comment and exploring options, said spokesman Damon Gross.
The company last week was to have held its fourth planning update meeting since last July with local government officials, preservation advocates and leaders of residents and neighborhood groups.
APS informed them it is postponing the meeting until it completes a study of potential alternative power station sites, said Linda Whitehead, vice president of the Coalition of Pinnacle Peak, one of the north East Valley’s largest residents groups.
Gross said the focus will be on studying the feasibility of building the largest of three proposed stations next to an existing APS transmission station at Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak roads in Phoenix, next to Scottsdale’s boundary.
Initial plans put a new 20-acre station next to land that Scottsdale wants to make part of its McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Two two-acre facilities also are proposed.
Some critics are encouraged that APS "now seems to be putting environmental considerations way up there" by looking into expanding its Pinnacle Peak Road operation, said Sam West, who has attended the APS planning meetings.
West is representing a residents group in Rio Verde, a large unincorporated area of Maricopa County adjacent to north Scottsdale. APS has targeted a site in Rio Verde as a potential power station location.
The utility will encounter strong opposition if it pursues putting a facility in Rio Verde, said resident Carmen Lizzo, who helped lead a protest of APS proposals at an open house the company hosted last year.
"The fight won’t be over until they say there will be no station (in Rio Verde)," Lizzo said.
Manross said APS’ delay of a decision makes her optimistic.
"They indicated they would try not to affect the preserve. We’ve made it clear how important this is to us," she said. "The ball’s in their court now. They know what we want. . . . They have indicated to me that they really are seeking a solution we could embrace."
Scottsdale senior planner Don Hadder said APS has told city officials the utility also will study the possibility of stringing new power cables along an existing transmission line corridor rather than establish a corridor across open land the city is targeting for the preserve.
According to APS projections, power demand in the area will exceed the combined capacities of the three existing north East Valley transmission stations by as early as 2010.
"Unless new facilities are built, the area will find itself with inadequate resources once approximately 3,500 to 4,000 new homes are built," the APS report read.
To provide adequate service in time to meet that additional demand will require construction of stations to begin within two to three years, Hadder said.