HECO plans
3-mile dig

The $59 million project would
bury new lines around the
McCully and Ala Moana areas

Hawaiian Electric Co. plans to bury three miles of 46-kilovolt transmission lines in McCully and Ala Moana to increase Oahu's electric power reliability, the company said yesterday.

The $59 million job was one of three underground options that HECO proposed in May to replace its defeated Waahila Ridge project. The others were a 138-kilovolt line in Palolo Valley for $122 million or a 46-kilovolt line in McCully for $41 million.

"Balancing all the issues, including the time element, this is the best choice," said Robbie Alm, HECO senior vice president for public affairs.

Factors considered included effectiveness, timeliness, impact and cost, Alm said.


Installation is planned in two phases:

>> Phase 1, projected for construction in 2005-2006, would run one mile from the Makaloa electric substation at Amana and Makaloa streets, along Makaloa, Kalakaua, Fern and Lime to the McCully substation at Pumehana. (It is the same as the $41 million option.)

>> Phase 2, projected for 2007-2008, would run 1.9 miles from the Archer substation on Cooke Street to Young and McCully streets.

HECO's original plan to string an above-ground line from the upper Palolo Valley, over Waahila Ridge, then make underground connections to Waikiki drew public protest. Last year, the Board of Land and Natural Resources rejected the project, which needed approval to be built on conservation land on Waahila Ridge.

"It is an adequate solution or we wouldn't be going for it. It does work," HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg said. "It's kind of like a spider web -- hooking up various parts of the web that have not been previously connected."

If the state Public Utilities Commission agrees with HECO that there is a need for the lines, construction could begin in 2005, Rosegg said.

The environmental group Life of the Land "will be really poring through the filings with the PUC to understand why HECO thinks they need the line," said President Henry Curtis.

The group also will argue before the commission that it should study the merits of decentralizing power generation before considering HECO's request for more transmission lines, Curtis said.

Life of the Land said HECO could improve its reliability by allowing customers and the company to generate smaller amounts of power closer to users.

Ron Lockwood, chairman of the McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board, said the proximity of the buried lines to Lunalilo Elementary is one of his concerns. "I don't think they (HECO) fully addressed the issues of electromagnetic fields," he said.

Lockwood was a member of a citizens' advisory committee that HECO gathered this summer to consider the three proposals and, on behalf of his neighborhood board, voted against any of them, he said.

"Everyone else was against it because HECO did not show the need for the project," Lockwood said. "And that was the citizens advisory committee they selected."

Just before the Palolo Neighborhood Board meeting last night, residents were "very excited" to hear that HECO had chosen another place to put its transmission lines, said Chairwoman Darlene Nakayama.

"As valley residents, we are so pleased, but our sympathy goes out to the businesses in those areas (that were chosen), because I know it's not going to be fun," she said.

Times Super Market at 1772 S. King St. would be one of the dozens of businesses affected along King Street. Closing manager Michael Nasau said one word sums up his concern about the work: "Traffic. We need to know how they're going to deal with it."

Engineering studies will have to be done to determine which lanes of King Street the electric line will be buried under, Rosegg said. But work will only occupy one or two lanes for a block or two at a time, during daytime hours outside rush hours, he said.

Only new transmission lines will be put underground and existing above-ground lines to individual buildings will stay in place, Rosegg said.

"We will have a project manager on scene and we will have a hot line. We will do everything humanly possible" to ease the disruption of the work, Rosegg said. Community meetings with people in affected areas will be held in the next few months, he said.

Rosegg noted that 44 percent of HECO's 3,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines are underground.


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