Ashley O’Toole is a local real estate agent. He sits on several boards and committees in La Grande and Union County. In 2018 he was a candidate for La Grande City Council, and he recently joined the STOP B2H coalition’s outreach team.

The B2H transmission line is a 20th century solution in search of a modern problem that doesn’t exist. It’s wasteful, obsolete and potentially devastating.

As of late, the City of La Grande’s official position on the B2H Transmission Line project has been “No Position” or at best “Move B2H.” During my campaign for city council this past fall, I studied this issue and I can absolutely understand why the city has taken that stance. “We don’t have a dog in that fight” is a phrase we often hear at council meetings and work sessions, and the city’s attitude about this issue is no different — but this time, it’s due to a lack of understanding and a failure to fully appreciate the devastating consequences of this obsolete and completely unnecessary project. Consequences that absolutely give the city a number of reasons to join the effort to stop the B2H project.

Here are some truths: Not a single tower will be built on city property, and not a single dollar of increased property tax revenue will benefit the city.

(Speaking of taxes, we’ve also found that the proposed, approximately $600,000 tax benefit to Union County is merely a guess by Idaho Power and cannot be corroborated by anyone at the County Assessor’s office or Oregon Department of Revenue — but that’s a story for a later time.)

It’s also true the city no longer has a “seat at the table” when it comes to working with Idaho Power, the county, state, BLM and other agencies that have a stake in this project.

However, that doesn’t mean the city government and residents can’t take action to help stop this project while there’s still time.

Idaho Power is planning to utilize Morgan Lake Road, as well as the Modelaire/Hawthorne Loop during construction. I understandt Morgan Lake Road is a county road, so hopefully they’re negotiating with Idaho Power, but who will pay to repair Gekeler Lane or Walnut Street? Modelaire and Hawthorne? I promise you the private corporation will not simply volunteer those funds.

The citizens of
La Grande will be stuck footing a bill that could reach up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The city government should also request that Idaho Power gives us the funds to more effectively respond to a fire, be it additional equipment or salary. These are not pipe dreams — local municipalities around the country have experienced successful negotiations in similar situations.

If you enjoy hunting, you’ll probably be mad when some of our most cherished local hunting grounds are destroyed. If you enjoy afternoons at Morgan Lake, you’ll be upset when Morgan Lake Road is completely jammed every day for more than a year with cranes, D8 Dozers, timber trucks and other equipment during construction; and you probably won’t enjoy the view of those 180-foot towers when they’re finished (nearly twice the height of the Sac Annex Building).

If you’re a history buff like me, you’ll be angry to find out that miles of Oregon Trail ruts will likely be destroyed. If this transmission line causes a fire (like the one responsible for starting the Camp Fire outside of Paradise, California, in 2018), you’ll probably be upset when your house burns down.

La Grande has nothing to gain from this project and everything to lose. It will ruin our surrounding ecosystems, our hunting and recreational grounds, our historical sites, our property values, our view of the surrounding mountains and our ability to effectively protect ourselves from devastating fires. All of this, to help a private corporation’s customers in Sun Valley, Idaho,
receive hydro-power originally intended for us in Oregon and Washington. (“Sun” Valley, where solar power would be a much more modern, effective and cheaper energy solution for those customers.)

Since 2009, at least 11 proposals for new, high-voltage transmission lines around the country have been replaced by more cost-effective solutions.

Now it’s our turn. There is still time to stop B2H, but it will require all of us getting mad and taking action. If you’d like to find out more information, or how you can join the effort, please email stopB2H@gmail.com . Our website, www.stopb2h.org, is coming soon.

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