Big Towers, Big Impact

By Linda Carlsen February 08, 2009 11:04 am

I have been involved in a citizens group in Baker City that is concerned about a proposal from Idaho Power to run 500kV electrical lines from Boardman to Hemingway, Idaho.

Oregon will have 250 of the 298-mile run. Eighty-eight percent of the project will be on private lands. The proposed routes were determined by a committee consisting only of Idaho residents. None of the four Oregon counties affected (Umatilla, Union, Baker and Malheur) were consulted or will benefit from the additional power.

I have lately become aware that this line would eventually be part of a large grid that would connect the large metropolitan areas of Seattle, Portland, Boise and population bases in Nevada and Wyoming. The establishment of this corridor will lay the groundwork for other entities to use this route.

It seems to be that our local rural lands are being sacrificed to serve the needs of urban growth. When I first saw the windmills at Telocaset, I was thinking this is great alternative power. But traveling along the Columbia River lately has caused me to rethink. Our scenic vistas are being co-opted in a never-ending pursuit for more consumption.

The Baker group has concentrated their energies on the placement of the lines. Maybe this explains why there hasn’t been as much concern in Union County. The proposed line does not march into the city limits of La Grande like the proposed corridor does in Baker City. The alternative corridor is partially in Union County but primarily in Baker County.

The route passes through the Medical Springs-Keating area. This is how I became involved. The alternative route would place 180-foot-high towers with 40- by 40-foot bases directly on my property. Thoughts arise concerning health, soil erosion and disturbance, recreation, aesthetic and scenic impact, and plant and animal habitat compromises. The list goes on and on. However, this kind of “not in my backyard” discussion is not where we need to exert our energies. We need to gather more information and question the efficacy of the project.

A coalition of communities from Baker, Union, Malheur, Morrow and Umatilla counties are sponsoring a petition that calls for individuals to sign if 1) they believe that the new Idaho Power proposed high-voltage transmission line is a Northwest regional issue and not just a local one; 2) they feel that more time is needed to receive clear information about the proposed high-voltage transmission line, possibly technological alternatives and all the complex short and long-term consequences; 3) they are willing to discuss where to locate the power line but are yet to receive convincing arguments that explain the need and the benefits to our communities.

The petition can be accessed online at In order to use this site without paying a minimal fee of $2, use the signatures tab at the top of the page after clicking “sign petition.” This will let people know if they are registered. It should be noted that this money goes to the website, not the cause.

Written input may be sent to Oregon Energy Siting Council, c/o Oregon Department of Energy, 625 Marion St., NE, Salem 97301-4040.