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Lawmaker’s Resolution Emphasizes Military Benefits of ‘Road Belt’ Power Line Project

KUAC file graphic

A state lawmaker from Healy is trying a new pitch for an old idea to build power lines from the Mat-Su to Glennallen and on around the eastern Interior road system. Rep. Dave Talerico says the Road Belt Electrical Transmission Line is needed to provide a more secure supply of electricity for the region’s growing military installations.

Advocates have argued for nearly 30 years that the Road Belt Electrical Transmission Line is needed to bring power to people who live outside the service areas of three utilities that operate in the eastern Interior. They say it also would help the region’s businesses and would create a so-called “bus loop” that would among other things enable utilities to respond more quickly to blackouts. And Representative Dave Talerico now adds national security to that list of benefits.

“This would be incredibly beneficial,” he said. “The largest benefit I think (goes) to our military installations.”

Talerico is the sponsor of House Joint Resolution 10 that, if adopted, would express the Legislature’s support for the project, which would bring electricity to facilities that must now generate it for themselves. Like the Black Rapids Training Site, located about 45 miles south of Fort Greely. It also would ensure a more stable power supply for installations that are already on the grid and undergoing expansion, like Eielson Air Force Base, where work is under way to accommodate the arrival of two squadrons of F-35 fighters. And Greely’s missile-defense base.

“Fort Greely has a pretty serious expansion going,” Talerico said in an interview last week. “And a couple of years ago, they put a substation down there by Clear Air Force Station, so they could also get power of the Railbelt intertie.”

The Road Belt transmission line would be similar to the two interties that run along the Parks Highway and connect the so-called railbelt utilities. But the new lines would be built father east, as explained by Glennallen-based economic-development specialist Jason Hoke during a March 14th hearing before the state House Energy Committee.

Credit KUAC file photos
State Rep. Dave Talerico, left, and Jason Hoke, executive director of the Copper Valley Development Association

“Phase 1 would be from Sutton to Glennallen to Delta Junction – approximately 286 miles,” Hoke said. He told committee members that line would service communities from Sutton to Glennallen, along the Glenn Highway, and on the Richardson Highway from near Gakona along to the Army’s Donnelly Training Area, south of Fort Greely.

Hoke said the next phase would bring power to a stretch of the Tok Cutoff north of Gakona and the Alaska Highway, from Tok to near Delta.

“Phase 2 is a smaller sub-transmission line that would go from Gakona up the Tok Cutoff up to Tok, and then back to up to Delta Junction. Approximately 227 miles,” he said.

Talerico says the project would help residents and businesses in 16 small communities that must generate their own electricity using costly diesel fuel.

“Their kilowatt-hour costs are through the roof,” he said.

Talerico says the Road Belt project is estimated to cost some $400 million. He says the state obviously doesn’t have that kind of money, and he’s doubtful about the prospects for other funding such as a bond package. So he’s hoping the military will realize the benefits the project would provide and will buy-in to it.

“In my estimation,” he said, “from the Department of Defense perspective, it makes good sense. But it would be good for the entire region.”

Talerico says he’s so far only talked informally about the project with some military officials. Hoke, the executive director of the Copper Valley Development Association, says senior Air Force officials have assured him they support the project. Talerico says he hopes members of the state’s congressional delegation, who encouraged him to introduce the resolution, would do most of the talking with the Pentagon.

“What they always tell us, for sure, is ‘Y’know a resolution sure helps.’ ”

The Energy Committee passed Talerico’s resolution and sent it on to the House Resources Committee, which took testimony on the measure on Friday. It’s scheduled for further consideration today (Monday.)  If approved, Talerico hopes it’ll be sent to the full House for a vote, and if adopted, passed along to the Senate.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.