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Written by Connor Spencer

Inclement weather can lead to power outages seemingly during any season, re-sparking the debate of undergrounding electrical wires and other utilities to reduce what seems to be an increasing recurrence of outages. Across Michigan, overhead power lines are a large and distracting remainder from a time when undergrounding these lines was not feasible. In many instances, as construction expanded and people moved, undergrounding was put on a backburner and never appropriately considered.

This issue does not stop at increased power outages, either. Especially in areas where the power grid was established long before modern building or construction, overhead power lines can be a health and safety risk, and, in our case, lead to increased visual blight. From marring roadside views, to cutting through natural areas, or even to these power lines deteriorating appearance overtime, it is clear that undergrounding these wires is an approach that should realistically evaluated along Michigan’s scenic byways. Our State’s natural, and scenic, views should avoid being broken up by power lines or utility poles just because it is a simple development solution. Furthermore, like billboards, these roadside wires can be a disruptive distraction to drivers. Our communities deserve the utmost scenic respect and care in every possible sense. We must protect the environmental availability and beauty that Michigan is uniquely gifted with.

Countries around the world have done similar improvements to undergrounding wires, resulting in decreased health and safety risks, and increasing individual support for continuing the practice. While undergrounding wires and utilities is a large project encompassing a broad scale, there is still action that can be taken at the local levels.

Undergrounding wires is not a process that would happen overnight, nor everywhere immediately. Individuals can make their desires for increased underground wires known to their local governments and councils – especially in communities with natural areas or scenic roadways that are disrupted by overhead wires. This advocacy can bring attention to undergrounding as an option, especially since this has never really been considered in many communities. Crafting and adopting ordinances that can protect the scenic views and natural areas from, at minimum, new overhead wire construction.

Scenic blight encapsulates any and all distractions and visual disruptions, which often times appear in a variety of complex and interconnected ways. Scenic Michigan’s Battle Against Blight is a constant fight that needs to be approached from all sides. Undergrounding power lines and utilities is a large step in the right direction to protecting our scenic views! You can also reach out to us by e-mailing our Executive Director, Jake Parcell, at [email protected] to help advocate for undergrounding utilities in your community!

Read more about our affiliate, Scenic America’s, initiative on undergrounding utilities here!

Photo by Adam Dempsey