The Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District (SRP) on April 3 notified the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) that it withdraws the certificate of environmental compatibility (CEC) application involving the Price Road Corridor Project because the transmission project that was contemplated – referred to as the 2015 Project – has been replaced by a new proposed project that is substantially different – referred to as the 2017 Project.
In its filing, SRP noted that in 2011, mainly in response to expected increases in electric load in the area of Chandler and Tempe known as the Price Road Corridor, it began an evaluative and public process to site additional transmission in the area.
The expected load growth in the area required a single circuit 230-kV line connecting the existing Schrader substation to a new substation in the southern portion of the Price Road Corridor (RS-28) and a double circuit 230-kV line connecting the existing Knox substation to a new substation in the northern portion of the Price Road Corridor (called RS-27), and related interconnecting lines, SRP said.
That projected need was based on a forecast consistent with the City of Chandler’s growth plans for that area, which called for high power use businesses, such as data centers and manufacturing, SRP said.
In order to minimize the impact of those new lines on existing homes and businesses, SRP said that it determined that most of the transmission might be built on the adjacent Gila River Indian Community. Additionally, SRP said that it determined the best locations for the private land portions of the project through an extensive public process.
In order to receive permission to build on Gila River Indian Community lands, SRP said that it conducted a process over a four-year period, beginning in 2011, supported by the 2013 unanimous consent of the Tribal Council. The project followed alignments suggested by the Gila River Indian Community and incorporated elements for Gila River Indian Community uses, SRP said.
That process involved a NEPA process, the approval of more than 50% of about 4,400 “allotees” owning the 146 impacted allotments, the approval of the BIA, the approval of the local governing body (District 4), and the approval of the Tribal Council, SRP said.
SRP noted that it obtained the NEPA approval, BIA approval, District 4 approval, and approval of most of the owners of each of the 146 affected allotments.
In the meantime, SRP said that it conducted a two-year public process to determine possible locations for the portions of the project located on private land, as well as to determine possible routes and locations not involving Gila River Indian Community lands.
In May 2015, the grant of right of way (ROW) for portions of the alignment to be located on Gila River Indian Community lands were brought before the Tribal Council for final approval, SRP said, noting that the council voted against the project.
SRP said that around mid-2016, it was clear that the 2015 Project could not go forward due to the non-approval by the Gila River Indian Community, and that it began reexamining its private land options.
In the meantime, the projected uses in the Price Road Corridor area continued to evolve, SRP said, claiming that a major change in the projected uses was the discouragement by the City of Chandler of new data centers, and the emphasis on office complexes.
That policy change was to encourage greater employment opportunities in the area and is encompassed in the city’s new General Plan that was approved last August, SRP said, adding, “Because of these changes SRP reduced its load forecast.”
Due to those changes, SRP said that it engaged an independent engineering and transmission planning firm, Teshmont, to reevaluate the transmission options based on the new load forecast. Teshmont concluded – and SRP’s transmission planners confirmed – that the lower load projections could be served with a single new substation (RS-27 from the 2015 Project) and the proposed double circuit 230-kV line from Knox to RS-27. In other words, SRP added, the need for RS-28 and the Schrader to RS-28 segment was eliminated.
The 2017 Project would link the RS-27 site – SRP currently owns the land – with the Knox substation, SRP said, noting that that routing would avoid many homes and businesses since much of the route would be located in the undeveloped area between the Loop 202 and the Gila River Indian Community boundary. The remainder of the route would be located in the Price Road Corridor, a commercial corridor that would be served by the line, SRP said.
“As the 2017 Project is significantly different from the 2015 Project (the only similarity is the RS-27 site), SRP has decided to withdraw the current application, conduct a new public process, and request a different CEC order,” SRP said.