Plan to replace wooden power poles draws fire

Published On: Jun 18 2013 05:54:43 PM HST   Updated On: Jun 19 2013 08:35:37 AM HST

Colin Davis remembers vividly how his life changed when he came home one day.

 "We left for the day and came home to find a 60-foot pole obscuring our view," Davis said.

 He has a picture of his view of Kaneohe Bay before he left home that fateful day last year.

A different view of  what he is living with now.

Davis didn't know if he had any options.

Could he take on the electric giant? Well, he’s trying.

Hawaiian Electric says its begun an aggressive program investigating the safety of 70,000 poles across the island.

"The existing poles were installed in the 1950's. The construction and safety standards were different then and when we did  the pole replacement today, the poles were taller and needed to be that way to meet the current standards," said HECO spokesman Darren Pai.

 Pai says the pole heights vary from 35-to 70-feet.

But the standards do not say how high the poles must be.

"They have to look at whether there are other utilities which have their lines attached to the pole like telephone and cable TV, what is the weather in the area, what is the terrain, what is the vegetation like. So there is a lot that goes into it," said Pai.

Davis learned he could plead his case before the Public Utilities Commission. He is hoping for a waiver and a shorter pole.

But this isn’t just one homeowners fight. Davis says Life of the Land and the Outdoor Circle have asked to intervene in the case.

And what the PUC decides could set precedent for other homeowner fighting for their view planes.

"The docket that was opened is not one pole, but influences wood poles in residential areas on Oahu so it is a very  broad investigation," said Davis.

 "The ruling in this case will determine how people in the future will be able to respond and if the waiver will be granted and under what terms and conditions."

 And Davis questions whether a taller 60- or 70-foot pole is really safer in hurricane force winds.

Down the street one of his neighbors worries about the state of the current poles that carry high-voltage lines.

"There is something wrong with the poles. They are leaning and they are starting to dry rot" said John Jenkins.

 The residents hope there is a resolution soon.




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