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Proposed cross-state transmission line project awaits impact statement

As population continues to grow in the Northwest, so have demands for electricity. To address those near-future needs, the Bonneville Power Administration is moving forward with a planned 500-kilovolt transmission line from Castle Rock, Wash., to Troutdale.

The preferred route was identified in 2012, but it’s taken three years to develop the Environmental Impact Statement and accommodate affected land owners.

The BPA has planned the line, which will cross the Columbia River near its confluence with the Sandy River on the western end of the Columbia River Gorge, since 2009.

“In recent years, we’ve been noticing that we’re experiencing a capacity problem in our system,” said Mark Korsness, Bonneville Power Administration project manager. “This is due to many years of load growth. Looking ahead, we note there will be a time with additional load growth in the area that we may not be able to keep the system up.”

This means an increased risk for blackouts.

“Right now, that time is estimated to be about 2021,” Korsness noted.

Once the Environmental Impact Statement is released, BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer has the final say about moving forward with the project.

“Because it’s a large project and west of the Cascades involving a lot of people and local governments, he will probably take some time in his deliberations,” Korsness said. “We’re anticipating maybe the end of summer 2016 is when he’s likely to make a decision.”

If approved, the estimated $700 million project will build two new substations at each end of the transmission line. In Troutdale, this is likely to be in the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Site, near the existing transmission line crossing the Columbia River, just north of the Troutdale Airport.

“But at the substation there isn’t quite enough room to expand it to build this new line, so we would build a new substation,” Korsness noted.

That project requires about 20 acres and would need to tie in to the existing substation.

While the project is controversial — more so for those in Washington — Korsness said the impacts should be fairly minor.

“We put them in two categories, natural environment and man-made environment,” he said. “Typically the man-made environment is the biggest issue, if we’re near people’s homes or not. Fortunately, (in Troutdale), we are not. We’ve really worked hard in the substation design to minimize impact there. It seems like a good fit.”

He added there would be impacts to wetlands near the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park land, but said BPA would obtain the necessary permits and mitigate for any impacts.

If approved, construction likely wouldn’t be completed until 2021 or later. Potential issues would be mitigated with non wire-oriented measures to bridge any service gaps, including lowering generators in one area to allow others to increase generation temporarily that are reaching capacity. Energy conservation efforts are also being researched for implementation.

“We realize it’s really a challenge for the people who live on or near the proposed line. We work very hard to work with them and made adjustments where we can to minimize impacts,” Korsness said. “They’re ultimately our customers. So we just really appreciate not only every landowner, but the cities and counties and local governments and elected officials who work with us and partner with us to help us deliver the information we need to our administrator so he can make the best decision for the project he can.”

For more information about the project, visit here.



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