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Eastside residents push city to be more involved in energy project

While more than 200 Bellevue residents came out to Monday night's City Council meeting to oppose Puget Sound Energy's two proposed routes for its 18-mile, Redmond-to-Renton transmission line project, Mayor Claudia Balducci limited testimony to three speakers for either side of the debate. No one emerged in support.

The three speakers were representing the newly formed Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy, which resident Jeff DuBois said encapsulates the thoughts of thousands of Bellevue residents. DuBois requested the council consider the integrity of the city's parks and neighborhoods and take steps to find an alternative that works for all parties and excludes erecting transmission line towers up to 12 stories in height.

PSE is using this year to solicit public comments and work with a community advisory group to determine which of the two routes is preferred for its transmission line project, which is proposed to handle future capacity needs on the Eastside. Residents on the Eastside, including some within PSE's community advisory group, do not believe the added infrastructure will be solely for their benefit nor do they want to see large towers erected in their neighborhoods or clear cutting of trees for the route. Seventy-four Eastside residents have sued the energy company to try to prevent it from using a route that would run over the old Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in the Eastside Rail Corridor.

"And it's only going to get worse," said John Merrill, who lives in Bellevue's Somerset neighborhood.

Merrill said PSE may oppose undergrounding its transmission lines, but there are still other viable options that the energy company excluded from consideration before approaching the public with its Energize Eastside project. He said the city should use its resources to find a solution to the routing issue and take steps to preserve neighborhoods.

"These routes cut through the heart of the community," said Richard Kaner, a Bellevue geriatric doctor.

Kaner said residents acknowledge the need for an infrastructure upgrade for providing a higher energy capacity on the Eastside, but that the city of Bellevue should use its power to govern land use and prevent "industrial blight" in its neighborhoods.

Councilmember John Chelminiak said PSE representatives will meet with the council next week for a status update for the project.

"I think it's clear to me that we need much more than that," he said.

Chelminiak was joined by Councilmember Jennifer Robertson in pushing for the city to take on a larger role in the PSE project, looking at what affect the routes will have on city policies, facilities and routes for future Bellevue projects. He also said he wants to hear an opinion from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, as well as community advisory group members who reside in Bellevue.

 

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