Power pole dispute comes to a head before the Public Utilities Commission

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Feb 19 2014 07:08:00 PM HST

Homeowners argue that taller HECO replacement poles are blocking views.

HONOLULU -

Hawaiian Electric Company is in the process of replacing 29,000 poles in neighborhoods across Oahu.

But Kahaluu residents began to question what was happening when the first poles were installed.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's report.

"Most of the people on the street just felt powerless to do anything and you almost are," said Windward Oahu resident David Knox.

Knox designed and built an award- winning Kahaluu complex with stunning views of Kaneohe Bay.

He can't stand the sight of a 60-foot pole that was installed across the street, which now mar the view. He maintains neighbors deserved a say-so before it went in.

Hawaiian Electric Company takes the position it is a replacement pole, not a new one, even though it's 20 feet taller. But it believes a public hearing wasn’t necessary.

Knox points to an another case in Mililani where HECO wanted to bury a similar high voltage transmission line. But it argued against a public hearing because it wasn’t raising the lines or blocking views.

"It's the same issue, but in reverse. In our case, they are raising the lines and they are blocking a view and those are the reasons why we think the public hearing process should be invoked," said Knox.

This is about to become a much bigger issue as the electric company is now replacing some 29,000 power poles across Oahu.

"It's not easy, but we are taking HECO to task on it because someone needs to do it," said Knox.

The Outdoor Circle calls HECO's approach to pole replacement unfair, because it doesn’t give older communities a chance to consider other options.

"Older communities should have that choice," said Executive Director Marti Townsend.

"We are asking for the notification letter to the residents to be detailed. Notify them about the pole, how many and where, and there is an option to underground if they chose to do that, and to also give the residents more time for that notification," Townsend said.

The Consumer Advocate is suggesting that the company notify neighborhood boards as part of a more methodical approach.

HECO believes a public hearing is impractical, but it said it wants to be safe and fair to its customers. 

Hawaiian Electric said national standards have changed and that's why in some cases a taller, stronger pole is neccessary. The parties outlined their positions last week as the Public Utilities Commission prepares to take up the issue.

The Outdoor Circle said that it has also heard from residents on Maui and the Big Island who are dealing with similar issues.

The PUC could decide to hold a hearing or issue a ruling and order based on what's been filed.

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