Camas needs to prepare to ‘go to war’ with BPA

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Camas City Councilman Steve Hogan

The BPA draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project they have strategically named the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project was published in November 2012. Many people reading this letter to the editor may have only minimal familiarity with the project. I can assure you, those members of our community who are directly along the paths that BPA is considering are quickly becoming more knowledgeable about this project. If you think the current power lines running through Camas are ugly, I encourage you to look at the size and shape of the new and bigger power lines towers. They make the current towers look like midgets.

The project will address future growth capacity for Clark and Cowlitz counties. The project will increase capacity to move excess power between Canada to as far south as Southern California. The project lays basic power line foundation for handling of electricity generated from wind farms in eastern Washington and Oregon. In summary, the costs generated by this project are associated with power generation sources and users across thousands of square miles of western North America. Ultimately the users of power within that geographic area will pay the costs of this new advanced power system.

The main purpose of my letter is to inform you that I believe that at a minimum, the city of Camas is heading towards a showdown with BPA on this project.

In 1995, the city of Camas passed an ordinance requiring that all new power lines placed inside the city limits had to be placed underground. As a fast growing urban community, we have made the decision as a council that placing power lines underground is consistent and necessary to create the quality of life our community expects and deserves. Since this BPA power line project has started, the BPA has chosen to ignore our city of Camas requests that the plan place the power lines underground. The current draft Environmental Impact Statement states in Chapter 4, page 4-29 with the numbering of 4.7.7 in the final sentence “For these costs, reliability and environmental reasons under grounding of the transmission line has been considered but eliminated from detailed study in this Environmental Impact Statement.”

I personally delivered the message to the BPA on Thursday night Jan. 10 on behalf of the city of Camas, the mayor and the Camas City Council that this position by the BPA is not acceptable. We requested that the BPA perform the Environmental Impact Statement relating to the impact of burying the power line anywhere within the urbanized area inside of the Camas city limits. We also stated that if they were not willing to do the analysis, they should find a new route for the project that does not come through Camas. At that same public meeting, Lloyd Halverson (Camas City Administrator) re-presented the Oct. 13, 2012, letter signed by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and addressed to Bonneville Power Administrator Stephen J. Wright that states that the senators “urge you to carefully listen to the local residents’ concerns and identify a solution that has the smallest impact on the property owners as possible.”

I am writing this note to let you know that I personally believe that this issue is going to come to a head for the City of Camas and its citizens in the near future. It is my prediction that this will end up in legal action. As we all know, legal action can get very expensive for all parties very quickly. No legal action will be taken until approved by the City Council. I am only one of seven elected officials on the council. I cannot predict how any of my fellow council members will vote. But I can tell you that if the BPA doesn’t produce an in-depth analysis of the undergrounding option for the power line, I am going to vote to pursue legal remedies against the BPA.

It is my belief that the BPA will end up putting the line through Camas. As your elected representative I believe that it is in our best interest to have buried power lines come through Camas. If buried lines are placed in Camas, the current ugly power lines close to the Columbia river will be removed if we win this battle. Frankly, I am surprised that the BPA has made the decision to ignore the City of Camas requests and set the table for this battle. But now that BPA has set this battle up, we should be prepared to go to full out war with BPA to get rid of these ugly above ground power lines permanently.

Steve Hogan has been a member of the Camas City Council since 2006. He can be reached at 834-2046 or shogan@ci.camas.wa.us.