Camas urges BPA officials to look at transmission line alternatives

City Council approves resolution opposing plans for transmission line project

City of Camas leaders are making their voices of opposition heard when it comes to the Bonneville Power Administration’s plans for the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project and its potential impacts on the city and its current and future residents.

BPA is proposing running a 500-kilovolt transmission line from Troutdale, Ore., to Castle Rock, Wash. Several of the project’s segments travel through the Camas 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.

Last night the Camas City Council approved a resolution requesting consideration of alternatives to placing the 500 kilovolt power lines within city limits. The document also outlined concerns about the project, which were detailed in length in a letter to the BPA from Mayor Scott Higgins.

“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,” the resolution reads, “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.”

A proposed “grey line” northeastern route alternative, which would not have impacted land within Camas, was ruled out as an option by BPA in January.

“The suggested route may have affected slightly fewer homes compared to the existing alternatives, but with significant consequences,” said the BPA response. “The suggested route would adversely impact small private landowners and homeowners not yet aware of the project, the timber industry, trust lands managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources and the natural environment; and would increase costs.”

Higgins said during an interview on Friday that he would like to see this option reconsidered.

“We don’t feel like it got its fair shake and we’d like them to look at it again,” he said.

Higgins explained that having the BPA route run through the recently annexed land north of Lacamas Lake could seriously affect planning efforts that have been going on for several years.

“We have worked too hard and planned too much to allow that to happen,” Higgins said. “We will fight to protect that area.”

Councilwoman Melissa Smith, who has been a vocal opponent of the BPA project, agreed.

“That is going to kill a lot of our potential plans in the future for growth,” she said.

Higgins said if transmission lines must go through the NUGA area, the preference would be that they are placed underground as is required by a city ordinance that was put into place in 1995.

“We are not asking [BPA] to do all 70 miles underground,” Higgins explained. “We are just asking them to do three.”

This concept was also addressed in the letter to BPA officials.

“We value our environmental resources; our recreational resources are prized, and where people live, work and breathe absolutely matter,” the letter states. “Any alternative method would have a significant negative effect on our values, municipal infrastructure costs and maintenance, and the use and enjoyment of our protected open spaces.”

Smith said she also does not want to see the proposed larger towers come to the heavily populated and established Goot Park neighborhood, which is already home to several BPA towers.

“I think there are better alternatives for [BPA] to consider,” she said. “It does not need to be in a populated area. They can’t just pick the most convenient and cheapest route.”

Camas leaders’ opposition to the project is also being communicated in other forums.

On Thursday, Higgins spoke up during a Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce luncheon where the keynote speaker was Mark Korsness, BPA transmission services project manager.

In addition, communication has been make with elected leaders including Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jaime Herrera. City Administrator Lloyd Halverson will also have the issue on his “to do” list as he heads to Washington D.C. this week.

“We can say all we want, but in the end they can do what they want,” Higgins said. “But, we can make it very difficult for them.”

According to the BPA, the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project is necessary due to growing populations, and increasing demand for electricity from a variety of sources ranging from industrial and commercial to residential entities.

A draft environmental impact statement from BPA is expected this spring.

Smith said she feels confident the city’s opposition to the currently proposed project have been and will continue to be heard. Whether the efforts produce any results have yet to be seen.

“We’ve done everything we can,” she said.

To view the resolution and the city’s letter to BPA, click on this story at www.camaspostrecord.com.

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