News | Shock Treatment: Animal shelter owners question the wisdom of Eagle Mountain’s planned power line on their property | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News | Shock Treatment: Animal shelter owners question the wisdom of Eagle Mountain’s planned power line on their property


When Kim and Karen O’Donnell left West Jordan to expand their animal-rescue ranch in Eagle Mountain, they never felt quite welcome and even planned to move again—that is, until the city decided to place a nearly 100-foot-tall power line in their front yard. The city argues that’s better than taking the entire property but, for the O’Donnells, it means losing any chance of selling their home, trapping them in Eagle Mountain, as well as endangering the welfare of the more than 100 rescued animals they care for.

Eagle Mountain officials decided more energy needed to be pumped into the community to help power the new growth, and they say their decision will destroy less property than other options. The city already receives power from an energy corridor across the street from the O’Donnells but decided against building next to it in favor of putting up a parallel energy corridor on the east side of the road. The structure would run across the properties of three residents, including the O’Donnell’s home-based nonprofit, the Friends in Need animal sanctuary.

“We don’t have a home; they do,” Karen O’Donnell jokes about the animals, including the trio of special-needs dogs barking at the squawking parrots and cockatiels in the next room. Her kitchen counter is cluttered with donated bread, the living room with boxes of donated produce and vegetables.

That’s just inside the house. Outside, potbelly pigs, goats, turkeys, horses and two newly rescued emus call the sanctuary home.

Kim had thought it might be time for another move to further expand the shelter but now doubts he’ll ever expand if the city goes ahead with an easement to place a 60- to 90-foot-high power line in the middle of his front yard, right over the water spigot.

“I wouldn’t pay somebody $100 to fetch my water for the shock they’d get after the pole gets put in,” O’Donnell says.

Electric shocks, however, are the least of the O’Donnell’s concerns. “The right we’d have to resell our home, our ability to run our shelter—all down the toilet. We depend on volunteers coming out, school kids come out to visit the animals, I don’t want them underneath a giant power line.”

“I won’t take any of the animals underneath there,” Karen says.

The O’Donnells and their neighbors say they were given 30 days notice in the first week of November that they could get the easement with financial compensation or without.

“This doesn’t give us time to get legal help, and they give us [the notice] right in the middle of the holidays,” Kim says.

Greg Jeppson, neighbor to the O’Donnells, was upset over the amount of compensation offered.

“They priced the value of my land against the price of vacant land in 2004,” says Jeppson of the city’s method for compensation.

Residents still wonder why the city couldn’t tack the new power lines alongside the old one. “The crazy thing is we have a perfectly good power corridor, why don’t they keep their crap over there?” Jeppson says.

“Look at the alternatives,” says John Hendrickson, city administrator for Eagle Mountain. “We put the power corridor on the other side of the road, then we don’t demolish two houses, and we also avoid potential delays and power outages.”

Hendrickson explains that the proposed 138-kilovolt power corridor would be cheaper then buying more energy from the existing one owned by Rocky Mountain Power, and that if Eagle Mountain built its own, the savings would be significant.

Hendrickson disagrees with the notion that the city ambushed homeowners with the decision. “This is a process that’s been in the works for years, and we’re still talking with those residents with concerns.”

Hendrickson says engineers approved the new route after examining various options. They considered the chosen plan to be the least destructive.

But that assumes the two owners whose homes are in line for demolition would be opposed to moving. One of the residents, the Jennifer and Mike Edwards family, are already trying to sell their home, and the other owned by the Michelle and Riggs Clark family, would consider allowing eminent domain if the price was fair. These homeowners, however, would have to be notified first. They say they were never notified about the new power corridor planned across the street from them, effectively sandwiching their properties between two massive power lines.

The Clarks have become accustomed to living under the power lines. “We get shocked just walking outside sometimes. My husband once even held a light bulb in his hands outside and had it light up a little,” Michelle Clark jokes.

But the Clarks don’t find it funny that the city kept them out of the loop on the new plans, which Michelle learned about from her neighbors. “It’s not fair they didn’t tell us, this definitely affects us,” Michelle says.

For Greg Jeppson, though, there shouldn’t be any homes underneath power lines to begin with. “Those [homes under the power lines] aren’t safe. The city had the opportunity to get two homes out from underneath the power lines. It might have cost them an extra million bucks, but of course, they don’t think of our safety. They’re more concerned with saving a buck then the property rights and safety of others.”