HECO says proposed
grid is safe

Its underground lines plan
needs approval from the state
Public Utilities Commission

Proposed 46-kilovolt underground transmission lines in Kakaako, Moiliili, Ala Moana and McCully will cause no significant impacts during construction or after the power is running, according to Hawaiian Electric Co.

In a draft environmental assessment submitted this week to the Public Utilities Commission, HECO said the underground lines will increase the island's electric power reliability by allowing electricity to be sent to East Oahu along an alternative corridor in case there is an outage in its northern corridor.

If the commission approves the $59 million project and rate increase to pay for it, a typical monthly household electric bill will go up by about $1, the company said in its assessment. In July the bill for 600 kilowatt-hours was $92.96.

The public will get to view copies of the draft environmental assessment during a 30-day comment period.

"There are no surprises in it," said Henry Curtis, executive director of the environmental group Life of the Land.

However, Curtis is critical of the assessment because it does not consider alternatives. He said HECO should consider putting more, smaller generating facilities closer to users as an alternative to transmitting electricity all over the island from a few large generating plants -- "because no grid is 100 percent reliable," he said.

HECO said construction can be conducted during nonpeak traffic hours and at night to minimize the economic impact on area businesses.

The draft environmental assessment said there would be little electromagnetic field exposure to people near the project areas.

Some people had raised questions about increased electromagnetic fields near Lunalilo School, but the environmental assessment said the new circuits will be configured so there would be no increase in electromagnetic field exposure.

McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board Chairman Ronald Lockwood was not convinced.

"I'm a special-ed teacher, not an engineer," said Lockwood, who added he would rather err on the side of caution. And he said HECO has not demonstrated a need for putting the lines in McCully. "Why not run it down Kapiolani?" he said.

If the commission approves the project, it will be completed in two phases. Phase 1 would run from the Makaloa substation at Amana and Makaloa streets, along Makaloa, Kalakaua Avenue and Fern and Lime streets to the McCully substation at Pumehana. Phase 2 would run from the Archer substation on Cooke Street to Young and McCully streets.

HECO is offering the underground alternative to placing a 138-kilovolt overhead transmission line on Waahila Ridge. The state Land Board rejected use of state conservation land for the project.



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