Camas considers next steps in opposition to BPA project

City Council looks at its legal options

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After concerns communicated by Camas officials to the Bonneville Power Administration regarding the proposed I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project have not gotten the desired response, the city is hoping to pinpoint its next step in efforts to keep the project from negatively impacting Camas.

City Councilman Steve Hogan said the city should be ready for a fight.

“How do we approach this if it comes to blows?” Hogan said. “We need to decide what our game plan is on this and not wait until the last minute.”

Mayor Scott Higgins suggested gathering opinions from the city’s legal counsel, adding that the best option may be to attempt to enforce a currently existing ordinance that requires all new power lines to be buried underground.

“The real question is, is [the BPA project] really needed?” Hogan said. “If it’s not needed, the question that comes to my mind is if we should take a stance at killing this [project].”

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.

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.”

Higgins has said that having the BPA route run through the recently annexed land north of Lacamas Lake could seriously affect planning efforts.

If transmission lines must go through the NUGA area, he said, they should be placed underground as is required by the city ordinance that was put into place in 1995.

Recently, the BPA announced that the draft environmental impact statement originally expected to be released this spring would be delayed.

“Over the last few months we have been completing the analysis and making sure that we consider public input we received,” the announcement stated. “We have also been working with federal and state agencies to further assess environmental issues and ensure the most thorough environmental analysis possible. This review helps us make a well informed decision about whether, and where, to build a new line and stations.”

A new project schedule is expected to be released in the near future.

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