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South Jordan Residents Worried About Proposed Power Lines, High Voltage Risks

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — A large group of neighbors in South Jordan is presenting its case tonight to stop a proposed power line upgrade that runs through their yards.

Rocky Mountain Power needs a permit from the planning commission to expand it’s capacity in that part of the valley to meet growing demand.

Dozens of neighbors are concerned about safety and property values — and they’re prepared to battle in court if they must.

The power company plans to upgrade the high voltage transmission line from 45 kW to 138 kW.  It runs for about a mile in the neighborhood north of 11400 South at roughly 1400 W.

That added capacity also requires the installation of 29 new, taller power poles.

Rocky Mountain Power insists the project is safe, but the people here are not convinced.

“If they start putting the lines in, the damage is done: our property values are impaired, the sale-ability of our homes is impaired, and our health is at risk,“ Said Dave Kowallis, concerned resident who is presenting the neighbors’ detailed case to the planning commission tonight.

Among the top concerns for neighbors as they talk about the impending upgrade of transmission lines?  Property rights and the safety their children.

They first heard about the project last summer.

“Those are transmission lines? We all thought that they were just regular distribution lines,” said Kowallis.

They’re worried about the electro-magnetic field, or EMF, emitted from the lines, and fire danger — especially with the proximity to the schoolyard at South Jordan Elementary School.

The transmission line runs along the back fence of the schoolyard, where children play.

“I would think that this would be obvious to Rocky Mountain Power that this is not a good idea,” said Scott Driggs, who has a child at the school.

The transmission lines also make them worried about the potential for wildfires.

“We found that many of the fires in California that have been all over the news, were in fact proven in court to have been caused by such transmission lines,” said Kowallis.

Their research also shows the power company’s own guidelines call for more clearance.

“So, they’re trying to cram in to a 10 foot easement lines, that for safety reasons, should have at least 30 foot clearance on either side of the lines,” said Kowallis.  “If you look down the line, you will see dozens of homes that are built much closer than 30 feet of the line.“

Rocky Mountain Power, however, told KSL the easement is not space that needs to be clear, rather an area in which they are allowed to work on the power lines.

“That gives the power company the ability to come in and maintain and upgrade poles and wires,” set Spencer Hall, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power.

Hall said the transmission line was put in in the 1950s before there was a neighborhood here, and it is time for an upgrade to improve capacity and reliability of electricity in that neighborhood and beyond.

“The impact will be minimal to the neighborhood,” said Hall.  “Safety is our number one concern. We build the system with safety in mind. We have to do it.”

The people who live in the neighborhood want the power company to pick an alternate route or bury the lines.  More than 100 residents have already been actively engaged in this battle, and they have organized legally, prepared for a potential lawsuit.

If Rocky Mountain Power is permitted to go ahead with the project, the residents said they may seek mediation through the state office of property rights.

They are also in the process of filing a complaint with the Public Safety Commission.

If neither of those avenues work, they may decide to sue the power company.

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