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Energy and Environment

New Bill Adds Safeguards For Future Urban Transmission Line Projects

westar_poles_green_street.jpg
Carla Eckels
/
KMUW/File photo
Many residents were upset in 2018 when large power poles were placed in their neighborhood. A new bill requires more discussion of similar projects in the future.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill this week requiring utilities to take certain steps before the construction of electrical transmission lines in urban areas.

The legislation, which is specific to Wichita, followed outcry from residents here after Evergy installed large transmission poles in several neighborhoods in 2018.

The bill requires utility companies to notify the city at least six months in advance before construction, as well as specify the dimensions of the poles and where they will be located.

Wichita City Council member Brandon Johnson said the bill will help neighborhoods be better informed in case of future projects.

“It gives us some real time to put out there what’s coming, the visual look of it, the impact it could make and to get questions answered," he said.

Community members must be made aware of any open houses scheduled about a project. The meetings should only take place on weekends or after 5 p.m. weekdays.

Evergy, formerly known as Westar, installed the poles in 2018 and left many Wichita residents, city council members and state legislators upset. Many were unaware when the poles were set to be installed. The 105-feet high poles stretched over 2.8 miles and were planted in more than 50 yards.

Evergy officials said the poles would provide more electricity to areas such as Wichita State University and Wesley Medical Center.

Johnson wanted the poles removed in 2019, saying it was unfair to the homeowners whose properties were affected. He suggested replacing the metal poles with wooden ones.

He also said many of the homeowners we not compensated when the poles were put in their yards.

Evergy promised to remove some of the poles after saying it made a mistake, but didn’t remove all of them.

Johnson and other council members worked to find a resolution with Evergy. The back and forth conversations led to the bill.

“There are a few pieces of it that we still disagreed on,” Johnson said.

“The thing about compromise is that you don’t get everything you want. They didn’t. We didn’t. But this is a really good step.”