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Neighborhood locked in power struggle

F.T. Norton
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

Linda Gentry stood in the backyard of her Oreana Street home Tuesday and waved her hand toward the Sierra Nevada.

“I bought my house for the view and now the power lines are going to ruin it,” said Gentry, whose property backs up to South Saliman Road. “Why can’t they put them along the freeway?”

Within a few weeks, NV Energy ” formerly Sierra Pacific Power ” intends to install 28 power poles on the east side of Saliman Road between Koontz Lane and Fairview Drive, an official said Tuesday.

John Perra, area service manager for NV Energy, said that to accommodate the views the poles will be five feet taller than the standard 45-foot-tall poles. They will also be sturdier than the average pole so the wire spans are farther apart and the tops of the poles will have metal brackets that protrude about 18 inches on which the lines are hung, instead of the commonly seen cross bars.

A meeting tonight at Seeliger Elementary School, hosted by the power company, intends to explain the project to residents. Perra said he will provide reasons why the lines are not going to be buried, or built along the freeway, or why it’s not feasible to increase the power loads on existing power poles.

According to Perra, the project is needed to prevent existing electrical transformers from being overloaded.

Residents whose homes back up to Saliman Road and others who live in the surrounding neighborhood are upset with what they perceive as the power company’s shady tactics.

“I think it is kind of sneaky. The electric company didn’t have to inform us that this is happening,” said Eva Reynolds who lives on Brookside Way, on the west side of Saliman Road. “I would much rather have the power lines underneath the ground, aesthetically and health wise.”

There has been some debate in the last 30 years over the possibility of electromagnetic fields from power lines causing or promoting cancer.

“Despite more than two decades of research to determine whether elevated (electromagnetic field) exposure, principally to magnetic fields, is related to an increased risk of childhood leukemia, there is still no definitive answer. The general scientific consensus is that, thus far, the evidence available is weak and is not sufficient to establish a definitive cause-effect relationship,” states a 2006 report on the subject from the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the EPA, there are no federal standards in the U.S. limiting occupational or residential exposure to power line electromagnetic fields.

The EPA Web site does offer tips on how people concerned about possible health risks from power lines can reduce their exposure. The two suggestions are:

– Increase the distance between you and the source.

– Limit the time spent around the source.

Clare Hardy, who also lives on the west side of Oreana Drive, said that’s not an option for homeowners whose back fences will be flush against the poles.

“Because of the health risks related to power lines, particularly childhood leukemia, it’s really essential that city officials and utility representatives involve the people affected,” she said. “There are several children along this street who have cancer, and their parents are concerned that living near power lines is going to increase the chance of that cancer returning.”

Hardy also understood Gentry’s opposition.

“It’s going to be dreadful. Everybody who bought houses on the east side of Saliman road did so because of the fantastic view we’ve got. They are going to be completely destroyed by having power lines over our backyards,” she said.

Among Jo Hensley’s concerns is the way in which the neighborhood learned of the large project. Hensley lives on the east side of Oreana.

“Apparently one of our neighbors found out about it, that’s how we all found out,” she said. “It’s just kind of unfair. They are going to put them where they want to put them.”

Hardy agreed.

“I’m amazed that the utility company can be so all powerful,” she said.

– Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.