Friction over a proposed power substation and new transmission lines in the Dimple Dell area has moved to court.
PacifiCorp, parent company of Utah Power, sued Salt Lake County in 3rd District Court Wednesday for failing to issue a conditional-use permit for a substation at 1929 E. Dimple Dell Rd.The county has balked at issuing the permit because Utah Power and Sandy City, which the lines would traverse, are at odds over whether transmission lines should be buried, and if so, who should bear that cost.
Utah Power wants to string the lines overhead; placing them underground would add at least $2.2 million and perhaps as much as $12.7 million to the project's cost.
The Public Service Commission has backed Utah Power's position, saying its policy is that overhead lines are standard and incremental costs of underground line construction must be paid for by a customer or local government agency requesting or requiring such construction.
The power company has backing from a judge who conducted hearings on behalf of the county and a private consultant hired by Sandy City.
In February 1993, the county Planning Commission approved the project, subject to eight conditions. But a group of residents appealed the decision to the County Commission. The commission hired a retired judge to review the decision.
He upheld the Planning Commission's decision. In April 1994, the County Commission approved the decision, but set 60 days for Utah Power to meet with Sandy and decide whether to bury the lines and who would pay for that.
At that point Sandy hired its own consultant, who backed the judge's decision.
Both the county and Utah Power have tried for months to get Sandy City to come up with a way of covering the added cost of burying the power lines - either through creation of a special service district or by holding a vote of residents of the Dimple Dell area to see if they prefer, and are willing to pay for, buried lines.
"Utah Power was recently advised by Sandy City officials that Sandy remains unwilling to provide funding for underground construction of the transmission line, yet is unwilling to accept construction overhead," the suit states. "The county is not willing to authorize issuance of the conditional-use permit as long as Sandy City refuses to approve its decision."
Sandy City Attorney Walter Miller says the issue of who should bear the cost of burying lines has not yet been determined. Some city officials even question the need for the project, Miller said.
He said the power company could serve the Dimple Dell area from the Dumas substation.
The city is currently drafting an ordinance that would require transmission lines to be buried, apparently trying to bring the issue to a head by that route. The Sandy Planning Commission will review the ordinance next week.
"It may be that if the city requires the lines to be buried, the lines won't be built," Miller said. "The ordinance will force these issues as to whether there really is a need and who will bear the cost."
While the county supports San-dy's desire to force the power lines to be buried, Overson said Utah Power has "clearly demonstrated the need for the substation".
Overson said once Sandy passes its ordinance, the county will likely issue the conditional-use permit for the project. Utah Power would likely sue anyway, he said.