The city’s struggle to find a solution to its 10-year-long power line project has taken a turn north.
Ameren Missouri has issued a preliminary study that found no immediate problems with the city using existing Ameren right of way north and west of Columbia to erect new 161-kilovolt electric transmission lines. The city paid Ameren $10,000 to conduct a study that determined whether the idea is feasible.
Mayor Brian Treece proposed running the transmission lines to the north under a plan known as Option E. It is one of several proposed solutions aimed to meet federal electric requirements that the city upgrade the reliability and capacity of its power distribution system to avoid rolling blackouts, according to previous Missourian reporting.
In 2013, the Columbia City Council approved a route for the power lines in south Columbia known as Option A. Despite the city having spent $3.5 million on construction, the work came to halt after strong community disapproval.
Many residents of the neighborhoods where the lines would have been placed were unhappy with the idea of 90-foot to 110-foot tall poles in close vicinity to their houses and schools. They also cited worries about the potential health problems associated with electromagnetic fields around the lines.
While Ameren said that it is OK with the city using the right of way where it already has 345-kilovolt lines, it lacks legal authority to grant any rights to the city to use them, according to the study. The next step would be for Columbia and Ameren representatives to discuss the details, Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer said.
Pitzer described himself as "cautiously optimistic" about Option E. Ameren did say in the study that there are a couple of "pinch points" along the right of way where its power lines run through residential neighborhoods.
"I think the fact that they’re willing to sit down and have further conversations and discuss this in more detail is a positive,” Pitzer said.
Option E would reduce the impact on established neighborhoods and schools, Pitzer said.
“Of course this would be piggybacking off the existing rights of way that Ameren is using," Pitzer said. "I think that is an important distinction.”