County supports removal of power lines from Parker Strip

La Paz County has sent a letter to the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) in support of a proposal re-routing 60 year-old power transmission lines that would finally take them away from the Parker Strip.

The current power lines were constructed in the 1950s to bring 161 kilovolts of power from the hydroelectric plant at Parker Dam to a substation in Bouse, AZ. Rather than serving the river communities, the lines simply cross through them, running south from Parker Dam starting on the California side of the Colorado River for 9 miles, then crossing the river south of Buckskin Mountain State Park, where it then passes through most of the residential and recreational areas of the Arizona side of the Parker Strip. The line passes overhead through miles of riverside communities in the ‘Upriver’ area of Parker before turning south-southeast toward Shea Road where it follows AZ-72 towards Bouse.

The current lines use aging H-frame wood pole structures, which, according to WAPA, are in “poor condition” and present potential safety issues to workers and the continued reliability of the lines.

“In addition to the safety issues, public and private encroachment has occurred on the right-of-way making it difficult to access the line for maintenance.” – WAPA

The most talked-about proposal would divert the lines away from the developed Parker Strip and into undeveloped desert areas on the California side, using existing right-of-ways as much as possible, including a long stretch parallel to an existing power line which runs to the Headgate Rock substation near the town of Parker. The line would cross the river north of BlueWater Resort & Casino and connect to the existing line near Shea Road.


Approximations only, created by Parker Live, based on WAPA drafts

The new lines would be constructed on steel poles ranging from 50 to 100 feet in height, going up to around 130 feet where the lines cross the river. Once constructed and energized, the old lines would be removed, including the river crossing south of Buckskin and all of the wires and wood pole structures from the Parker Strip.

Because of the upgraded steel construction, the lines would be higher capacity and able to carry an increased voltage. Initially, they would be operated at the existing voltage of 161-kV, but would be capable of operating at 230-kV in future to meet anticipated demand.

The County’s letter, addressed to Michael Setering at WAPA, mentions a “new, third alternative” which would involve simply replacing the old lines but leaving them in their current locations. The County said it “strongly opposes” such a move, saying that the option “completely ignores the resulting/continued economic and social injustice caused by the present route of these lines.”

“Any land within proximity to the beautiful Colorado River is limited and highly desirable. The present route of WAPA’s transmission lines is a tremendous detriment to the potential development of the area. While it is unfortunate planners in the 1950s lacked the foresight to route these lines through much more appropriate routes, the only action that would be worse would be to ignore what we now know and allow the current route to remain in place.” – County Board of Supervisors

In the 1950s, the Bureau of Reclamation ran the transmission lines, and did not have regulations that required them to consider aesthetic concerns. “In those days the Bureau of Reclamation simply said point to point, they drew a line and that’s where they built a line,” said a WAPA report in 2002.

This attitude changed when, in his message to Congress in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson discussed the need for beauty in American life: “Beauty can enlarge a man’s imagination and revive his spirit,” while “ugliness can demean the people who live among it.” In keeping with this new approach, he stated, “It would be a neglectful generation indeed, indifferent alike to the judgment of history and the command of principle, which failed to preserve and extend” the heritage of a beautiful America. Therefore, “we can introduce, into all our planning, our programs, our buildings, and our growth, a conscious and active concern for the value of beauty.”

WAPA took over the transmission lines from Reclamation in 1977, and adopted a strict set of regulations regarding where they could be placed. These included considerations of “natural topography”, “advantages or disadvantages from an appearance standpoint”, the sightliness or unsightliness of access roads, “public view”, and to “avoid altogether, if possible, the major areas of highest amenity value by so planning the general route of the line in the first place, even if the total mileage is somewhat increased in consequence.”

The total mileage of the line will indeed increase if the plan is implemented as per the proposal the County supports. But the line would completely bypass the majority of the Colorado River and the communities along it, increasing the aesthetic value of an area prized for its natural beauty, the river and its surrounding desert vistas.

WAPA is also obliged to consider the environmental impact of its proposal, which meant a public hearing at BlueWater Resort & Casino in Parker earlier this month, at which it provided an overview for the public of the proposals under consideration, and gave an opportunity for locals to voice an opinion. But the meeting was not well attended or well advertised, and not many were able to be there.

The public comment period is still open through Saturday, August 19th, and the agency can be reached with comments via email. The email address is and must reference ‘Rebuild Project DOE/EA-1987’. Emails must include your name, affiliation (if any), address and phone number.

The County’s letter requests that the County be named as a cooperating agency as the only local government representing the citizens located along the majority of the affected area, and copies were sent to Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, Representative Paul Gosar, Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry, Governor Doug Ducey and others. It was signed by Supervisors D.L. Wilson, Duce Minor and Holly Irwin.

“I’ve always thought of [the lines] as a scar on a beautiful landscape,” said Minor.

If the proposal passes successfully through its environmental impact assessment, it will have to pass some other hurdles before being green-lit. The process started several years ago when the need for replacement of the existing infrastructure was identified.

25 comments

  1. Brian Gwin

    I’m fine with moving them as long as they don’t mess up our off road riding on the CA side!

  2. Diane

    They could put a small assessment on current landowners who own property beneath the lines to help pay for the re-location since they will benefit immensly.

  3. Alyssa Kovich

    WAPA is one of four private electric wholesalers in the U.S. & everyone that lives in the Parker area or visits the Parker area to enjoy the strip will benefit from this.

  4. Alyssa Kovich

    Please don’t just like this article, share it! We need as many letters as we can, sent before the 19th.

  5. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Yup, who needs electricity, eh? Lol. Geeze folks, let’s chop down trees so we can see the views too.

  6. Scott Meléndez-Stewart

    A great proposal! Sharing this article.

  7. Mario Aguirre

    It’s gonna take 30 years to approve of that due to muh tortoises

  8. Sandy Kantor

    Keep them in Arizona. We don’t want the undeveloped California side cluttered with these behemoths.

  9. I have a small plot that the lines run over, I would be fine with an additional assessment since i would diffidently benefit. Plus people would probably add structures so county would benefit from permit fees. I’ll be submitting letter of support.

  10. We don’t want them in California!!
    Put them underground.

  11. August 2017
    “Yes, get those power lines out of here!!”

    Two weeks into project
    “Ugh, these road closures and construction detours are so damn annoying!”

    This isn’t Sim City folks… things take time🤣

  12. C- The proposal puts them largely on existing right-of-ways that already have power lines on them. When you say “we” don’t want them in California, I assume you’re in the Parker area? Otherwise this won’t affect you one way or the other.

  13. ï am for moving them to california
    we have theses lines behind our home
    and if any of theses lines fall the area has to many
    homes close by not to cause damaged or harm to someone

  14. John Wright

    Sandy- This is not a state vs state thing. Either way they’d be in the Parker area. The proposal would put them alongside existing power lines, largely. And they’d be back in the desert where few people would see them rather than in an area where hundreds of thousands have to see them.

  15. Shun Ploos

    Sounds like a lot of money going to be wasted just for the fact of people not seeing them I said if it’s not broken why fix it

  16. I like the idea of moving them to an existing right-of-way and freeing the views from power lines and poles.
    I would rather the underground option if there is one.

  17. Danny Crayton

    There bright ideas already ruined are Daily life upriver with the sewer systems. Our vehicles damaged and always dirty for one year. Stop trying to milk the county for more money.

  18. The issue is they are broken 30 years past the point of being replaced they are unsafe they inhibit County development private property development they’re ugly they show the actual footprint of man in the best that nature has to offer they just need to be moved deeper into Arizona or on the California side where they cannot be seen

  19. Alyssa Kovich

    They have to fix them already that’s the point. They have to replace the poles they are past their life expectancy and according to WAPA are very dangerous. They’re in residential areas now whereas if they put them out on the California side they won’t be.

  20. Alyssa Kovich

    If I remember correctly they estimated three to five years on the Arizona side and 6 to 7 years on the California side

  21. Shun Ploos

    Well if. The money is there go for it I say but if more taxs for are utility go up or we have to be tax more in our community for this project I extremely disagree

  22. For those who think this is an idiotic idea. The property of river that would become available would be huge for the county and the people of the county. Plus this project would be funded from sources outside of La Paz. The obstruction of development up river today has been mostly do to those power lines. Duce you could start working on getting that area free from the 50 year floodplain that hasn’t existed in 25 years ever since they completed Highway 95. Residence up river are paying flood insurance that have gone into the millions now that could have stayed here in the county, there was an attempt by the Board of Supervisors in 1995 but was never completed. It would make the property for development even more attractive and valuable.

  23. Moving the lines to the California side would result in a loss of commercial, utility and right of way taxes that would not be made up through new residential property taxes, passing even more of a tax burden onto County residents. Additional residential property up river would be more desirable than unsightly power poles and lines, and definitely should be considered, as long as the lines are relocated to another location within La Paz County. Moving them to California would result in a net loss of revenue for the County.

  24. I guess I would have to see the figures but I am willing to bet the commercial, utility, and right of way revenue brought into the county by these lines would be offset by building permit fees, property re-assessment for property tax and economic stimulus (via land development). These lines were inherited along side the U.S. Department of Energy so willing to bet they got a pretty sweet deal that was grandfathered in w/tax increase limitations.

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