Camas ramps up ‘battle’ with BPA

City officials hope to meet with utility’s administrator

City officials hope to meet with utility’s administrator

Camas officials are looking to serve up their opposition to the Bonneville Power Administration I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project directly to the decision maker at the top: BPA Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Stephen J. Wright.

During last night’s Camas City Council workshop, City Administrator Lloyd Halverson said conversations with a representative from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office during his recent trip to Washington D.C. indicated that the senator’s staff would assist the city in facilitating communication with the BPA. He said a meeting with Wright, “the end decision maker,” could be the next step.

“Then, we expect and hope that they will indeed listen to our concerns and mitigate our concerns,” he said.

The BPA is proposing running a 500-kilovolt transmission line from Troutdale, Ore., to Castle Rock, Wash. According to the BPA, the project is necessary due to growing populations, and increasing demand for electricity. If the proposal goes through, the impact on Camas would be significant. Several of the project’s segments travel through the area.

Lines 41 and 50 cut across Lacamas Lake and into the North Urban Growth Area, which is the focus of the city’s 20-year plan for future development; lines 40, 44 and 46 run through Camas Meadows Corporate Center; and line 52 is in the Goot Park area. In addition, a river crossing from Troutdale to Camas is the only Columbia River crossing that is being considered for the project.

If and when a meeting with Wright takes place, City Councilman Steve Hogan said it should be made clear that Camas is serious in its fight against the BPA project’s potential negative impacts on Camas.

“We should be sending a message that we are ready to put the gloves on and do battle,” he said.

So far, city officials have indicated that communications about their concerns to the Bonneville Power Administration, which have ranged from phone calls and official letters to in-person meetings and city council presentations with BPA staff, have not gotten the desired response. Higgins said a meeting with Wright, who has the ultimate say as to if, when and how the project moves forward, could have the strongest impact.

“It is a ramping up of the pressure and a different course than we have been taking,” he said. “We are elevating up the chain [of command].”

Washougal resident Ken Hadley said he agrees with the city’s proposed tactic.

“I think the BPA staff is acting as a buffer for [Wright],” he said. “I think it’s time to get past that buffer.”

The Camas City Council in March approved a resolution requesting consideration of alternatives to placing the 500 kilovolt power lines within city limits.

“We urge the appropriate authorities to insist that Bonneville Power Administration consider and select alternatives, through the alternatives analysis portion of an environmental impact statement, that route the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project away from the urban area known as the City of Camas, and to further insist that no alternative be considered that includes routing of power lines above ground through the city of Camas.”

The BPA recently announced that the draft environmental impact statement originally expected to be released this past spring would be delayed until late fall. A proposed preferred alternative route will also be revealed at that time.

“BPA is completing data collection, analyzing a multitude of factors and identifying necessary permitting processes,” said a statement from the BPA issued in June. “The delay allows us to provide the most thorough environmental analysis possible.”

BPA will have a booth at the upcoming Camas Days festival, Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28, in downtown Camas staffed with BPA representatives and general information for the public.

For more information about the project, visit www.bpa.gov/corporate/i-5-eis/