Efforts to build a high voltage power line from Utah to Southern California is running into a major road block in the form of Nevada's senior senator, Democrat Harry M. Reid.
Reid is vowing to block approval of a needed right-of-way any way he can. His efforts are likely to focus on opposition to a bill sponsored by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, that would permit needed land swaps between the federal government and the state of Nevada.Utah's senior senator, Republican Jake Garn, said Reid's move is simply an attempt to get back at Utahns who protested construction of the proposed Thousand Springs power plant near the Utah-Nevada border last year.
While Reid blamed opposition from Utah environmentalists and politicians for the project's demise, Garn said it was a simple case of poor economics that killed the proposal.
Failure to get the proposed right-of-way through southern Nevada could have a harsh impact on Utah-based Deseret Generation & Transmission which is counting on the line to provide access for key power sales to California markets. Those contracts are an important element of Deseret's $1 billion debt restructuring to forestall bankruptcy.
But Deseret spokesman Ken Fisher said there is still time to look at other alternatives and the company is not ready to panic. He said the proposed line has a 1994 projected completion date which still leaves some time to look at other alternatives.
Earlier this summer Utah Power & Light Co. announced its intent to pull out of the project which also involves the Los Angeles Water and Power Department, Nevada Power and the Utah Association of Municipal Power Systems along with Deseret. Most of the participants felt UP&L's withdrawal would have little impact on the project.
Reid's opposition appears focused on two issues. First, he said, is to prevent the power companies from plowing up Nevada landscape to build the transmission line. The second, he added, is his concern that Los Angeles has misled residents about a proposed new power plant in White Pine County near Ely. He said he has serious doubts that Los Angeles will follow through with plans to build the proposed plant once it gets the right-of-way it is after.