August 20, 2010

Three questions consistently asked, and consistently not answered by Idaho Power

The Record Courier, 19 August 2010

Idaho Power is holding a new series of informational meetings to present their proposed 500 kilovolt line to the affected public. The new route, from Boardman to Hemmingway, will still use a higher percentage of private land than public land and it is still destined to come through Baker County, though the shortest route proposed actually went through Grant County. But, in admirable representation of their constituents, Grant County’s commissioners have taken a strong stance against the power line. The people of Grant County do not want 200 foot metal towers marching through their beautiful wilderness areas and private ranches and who can blame them? Once energy right of ways are acquired, there is no going back. Once the proposed infrastructure is in place, it will be extremely hard to remove, if not impossible.

There seem to be three questions that are consistently asked by Baker County citizens and unfortunately, consistently not answered by Idaho Power and local politicians. The answers given are pat, generalized, circular answers that only create more questions.

Question 1 – Does the 500kV line have anything to do with the wind industry proposals in Baker County?

Two years ago Idaho Power claimed the B2H project had nothing to do with the development of wind industrial sites in Baker County. However, the more the question got asked, the more the answer changed. Eventually, Idaho Power admitted that if a certain wind industry is a customer, then yes, they are required, as a monopoly, to maintain capacity to serve all customers and this is based on projections which include the needs of future customers…which could include wind industries.

But the question remains a murky, non-transparent subject in Baker County. Who is proposing wind industry in Baker County and does it have anything to do with local representatives promoting the transmission line coming through Baker County? Who is subsidizing wind energy?

Question 2 – Does Idaho Power really have to use those ugly 200 foot metal towers?
Yes…One of Idaho Power’s “designers” attempted to answer the question of why smaller, wooden supports could not be used and according to Idaho Power, “it is too expensive to find trees with poles over 100 feet.”

Last summer, I went to a poorly attended meeting held by Idaho Power where the need for this type of energy infrastructure was explained better.

The way I understand it, there is other less invasive infrastructure that could be used with DC power. DC (direct current) power does not create as much heat as AC (alternating current) power and therefore supports for transmission lines can be smaller, shorter, and obviously, less ugly.

However, DC power lines require expensive sub-stations and are only used for long-distance energy transmission. Idaho Power claims the expense to convert to DC power could not be justified for anything under 300 miles. Sadly, the route from Boardman to Hemingway is only about 290 miles, give or take.

Question 3 – Do sage grouse on private land have the same rights as sage grouse on public land?
Apparently, this remains to be seen.
Kristen Wares
Baker City

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