It’s a question likely asked by many in La Grande: “What is that thing on the hillside?”
A local group decided to make a visual representation of what the Boardman to Hemingway transmission line tower will look like. But imagine something twice as big.
Peter Barry is the landowner where the 100-foot foil has been set on the hillside going up to Morgan Lake, which is visible in portions of La Grande.
The mysterious strip of silver glinting in the light has been a topic of conversation, he told The Observer, which is exactly what he and other members of the Stop B2H coalition wanted.
“This is a very small representation,” Barry said of the line. “We’re trying to remind people there’s an impending disaster in our community. This is supposed to represent one tower. But there will be about 15 to 20 transmission line towers approximately 185-feet tall and it’s going right through La Grande.”
The Boardman to Hemingway line is a proposed 500 kW transmission line that would extend approximately 300 miles from Boardman, Oregon to the Hemingway Substation in southwestern Idaho.
It is proposed to come through Union and Baker counties, and the specific route is still being discussed. However, one of the proposed routes goes right where that silver strip on the hillside is, which gives those in La Grande a good idea of what they’d be seeing, Barry said.
“Some people have noticed and some haven’t,” he said of the foil on the hill. “There’s no way, though, that we can build anything remotely close to (what the towers will look like).”
He said they plan to enlarge the foil from the approximately 100 feet it is now to closer to the actual size of the towers — 185 feet.
“There is a proposal there would be two (transmission line) towers in that (Morgan Lake) vicinity,” he said. “Despite the outpouring of opposition against this project, there are still people who haven’t heard about B2H.”
Barry said members of the Stop B2H coalition brainstormed on how to get people’s attention.
“This would be a daily blight in our community,” he said. “We thought about getting balloons or renting massive cranes. They were either very expensive or difficult to do. Now, we are going to expand it and add others in other locations.”
He said this is all to warn people of this “invasion by a private organization.”
Idaho Power, Bonneville Power Association and PacifiCorp say they are building the line, which is now 10 years into its process, to make room for expansion.
“A lot of people don’t believe this is going to happen,” Barry said. “But it’s making its way through the state agencies. It’s been getting the rubber stamp from corporate-friendly agencies in Oregon. People have been opposing it for 10 years, but really for three years the coalition has been working to stop it and inform people.”
People have been devoting their lives to reading the thousands of pages submitted to all the necessary state agencies that have the “rubber stamp,” he said.
“We’re really up against it. We’re urging the local citizens to call the (La Grande) city councilors and (Union County) commissioners and tell them this is a travesty and they don’t want it.”
He added this project isn’t needed. However, even if Idaho Power chooses to build it, there’s no reason it has to go right through La Grande.
“It should be built two miles away — or 20 miles away,” he said. “(La Grande) wouldn’t have to see it. There’s no reason to put it by La Grande.”
Barry said the 100-foot foil gleaning on the hillside is nothing compared to what’s to come.
“(The transmission line) is 100 times worse than this,” he said. “There’s no way (we) could try and replicate it. We want to keep this in the public’s eye.”
Barry said those who want to make sure B2H doesn’t come to La Grande, should contact public officials and voice opposition. or visit the StopB2H coalition’s Facebook page or email StopB2H@gmail.com for updates.
“We don’t want this thing in our backyard,” Barry said. “We like electricity (but) there’s a time and place for everything. And this isn’t it.”