Midway Residents Say They Prefer Paying Extra To Bury Transmission Lines

After a professional randomized survey 70% of Midway residents say they prefer the transmission lines running through the southern portion of the city be buried underground at extra cost rather than placed overhead.

The transmission lines meant to connect the Midway substation to the Jordanelle dam substation is part of a joint project between Rocky Mountain Power and Heber Light & Power. Throughout most of the valley transmission lines will travel along overhead poles ranging in height from around 70 to 100 feet above ground. The project will create points of interconnect allowing both power companies to transport needed power to and through the Heber Valley to serve their rapidly growing customer bases.

Many Midway residents have expressed opposition to placing the lines overhead citing impacts to view sheds, property values, and potential health hazards.

Should the lines be placed overhead Rocky Mountain Power would pay for 80% of the costs incurred, with Heber Light & Power covering the rest. Midway Mayor Celeste Johnson says placing the lines underground would be more expensive with additional cost obligations falling on Midway.

“The costs to go overhead is approximately a million dollars a mile,” Johnson explained. “The cost to go underground is about four to five million dollars. So, they’re willing to take that 80% that they would have spent to go over head and put that towards the underground project. Which puts our price tag closer to about four million dollars.”

Since early fall Midway city council has been educating the public on their options for the transmission lines and seeking their input on how to move forward. Citizens have had the opportunity to participate in three planning commission meetings and two public hearings in front of the city council. Other opportunities include two question and answer sessions at town hall. Mayor Johnson said the city got the word out about those meetings through social media, banners in town, news outlets and the cities website. That process has culminated with a professional survey.

“Completely independent survey analysis company out of Colorado to help draft the wording for the survey,” Johnson continued. “Then rather than something where people could opt in it was a random phone survey, which is much more accurate. The survey company believed that a count of 200 would give us statistically the information we needed; I requested 300 just to be sure. We divided the city into four quadrants and based on the population of each quadrant is how many phone calls were needed in each of those quadrants. So, not only do we believe that it’s statistically sound, we also believe it is representative of the whole city.”

The results show that of 301 residents surveyed 211, or 70.1%, said the city should bury the lines, accepting the fact that their utility bill would increase.

Midway City Council meets Tuesday evening and is likely to make a final decision regarding the transmission lines.

“The City Council was very clear at our last meeting that they wanted the survey to direct their decision,” Johnson said. “They also believe that those citizens who feel the most strongly about having this buried should raise most of the money for the project. At last count I believe they had raised approximately $700,000 that would go towards this project. Additionally, the landowners that are affected by this project and are entitled to compensation from Rocky Mountain Power have signed a letter indicating that whatever compensation they receive if the line is buried, they will donate that compensation.”

Should the council vote to bury the lines Mayor Johnson says Heber Light & Power will finance the rest of the cost to bury through a line item reflected on Midway meter users bills.

Midway City Council meets in council chambers located at 160 West Main Street Tuesday at 6:00 pm.