Union County residents will have their first local opportunity to speak to the Oregon Department of Energy’s Energy Facility Siting Council about the controversial proposed Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) power line project on Thursday.

The ODE’s siting council will take public input on B2H at the hearing, to be held at the Blue Mountain Conference Center. The Energy Facility Siting Council, according to the State of Oregon’s website, www.oregon.gov, is seeking input on the Oregon Department of Energy’s Draft Proposed Order. The draft order recommends that the Energy Facility Siting Council approve the ODOE’s recommendations for the proposed 300-mile Boardman to Hemingway power line, which would pass through the Union County and
La Grande area.

All members of the Energy Facility Siting Council are appointed by Oregon’s governor. The council directs the Oregon Department of Energy on the implementation of state policy.

The draft proposed order was released by the Oregon Department of Energy on May 22.

The public hearing in
La Grande will be conducted from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. Testimony will be taken about anything related to B2H, according to Sven Berg, a public information officer for Idaho Power.

Idaho Power is leading the effort to get the B2H line built with the help from partners Pacific Corp and Bonneville Power.

One B2H issue sure to come up are the two routes Idaho Power is considering through La Grande, both in the Morgan Lake area. The Mill Creek route would be highly visible from La Grande, while the Morgan Lake route would be much less visible.

“We are hearing an increasing amount of support for the Morgan Lake route,” Berg said.

Berg said that Idaho Power wants to work with the City of La Grande to help compensate it for any problems B2H may pose. These would include helping to fund upgrades at Morgan Lake Park.

The Mill Creek and Morgan Lake routes are now being examined by the state’s Energy Siting Council. Should the siting council determine that both proposed routes meet state standards, Idaho Power will select one, Berg said. Final approval of the route would later have to be given by the Oregon Department of Energy.

Jim Kreider, a member of the Stop B2H Coalition Board, said that members of his organization will be at the hearing and will give testimony arguing that the transmission line is not needed because Idaho Power already has enough capacity to meet its energy transmission needs.

Specific points Kreider said Stop B2H Coalition members will also bring up include possible environmental damage that would be done in Union County by the heavy equipment brought in to install the transmission line.

Concerns about damage to the environment and view sheds are reasons why the La Grande City Council issued a proclamation in April declaring its opposition to B2H. The city council’s proclamation asks that, if the B2H project does go forward, the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred route would be the one chosen. Kreider said a study by the BLM indicates this route would cause less environmental damage and make B2H’s power lines less visible than they would be on the Mill Creek or Morgan Lake routes.

The BLM’s preferred route is also known as the Glass Hill Alternate Route. It would come out of Ladd Canyon and run south of where the proposed Mill Creek and Morgan Lake routes are.

B2H towers would range from 100 to 180 feet tall and the typical height would be 140 feet, according to Idaho Power.

La Grande is one of five sites where Energy Facility Siting Council hearings are being conducted. The other hearings will take place Tuesday in Ontario at Four Rivers Cultural Center; in Baker City on Wednesday at the Baker City Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall; on June 26 at the Pendleton Convention Center; and on June 27 in Boardman in the Port of Morrow Riverfront Room. Each hearing will run from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time

The B2H transmission line is needed, according to Idaho Power news releases, because economic and population growth is driving up the demand of electricity among customers of Idaho Power, PacificCorp and Bonneville Power. The claim is that while enough energy is being produced for the region, existing transmission lines don’t have the capacity to carry much more to customers.