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Bellevue City Council looking for Energize Eastside answers
Puget Sound Energy's Energize Eastside project has raised a bevy of questions pertaining to its need and potential impact to Bellevue homeowners, and the City Council says it wants to make sure there are answers to all of them before a transmission line route is set in stone.
Councilmembers heard from nine members of PSE's community advisory group for the project Monday, receiving mixed reports as to whether their input to the energy company could result in seriously looking at alternatives to running 18 miles of overhead 230 kV transmission lines from Renton to Redmond.
Scott Kaseburg with the Lake Lanes Community Association said there's frustration that PSE is not considering changing course from the 18 segments being proposed to create a final route, nor is it considering alternatives like undergrounding the lines. Norm Hansen for the Bridle Trails Community Club said PSE needs to look at options that will minimize impacts to property values and the character of Bellevue neighborhoods.
David Hoffman for the Master Builders Association said the business community is concerned by PSE's projections that new power hookups could end by 2019, which would be an economic hit that also results in declining property values. He said he's hopeful communities, businesses and PSE can strike a balance that benefits everyone.
"I think we're heading in that direction," he said. "I think there's a lot of progress to be made."
Other advisory group members said despite some frustrations they are encouraged by the community outreach process. Still others continued to push for an independent study of future Eastside energy demand and analysis of other line alternatives.
A majority of councilmembers Monday agreed much of the pushback for the project is coming from community members either skeptical of the data being provided by PSE or holding out for additional research on alternatives and future energy consumption on the Eastside.
Mayor Claudia Balducci said it's clear more growth is in Bellevue's future — the downtown area is only built out to 50 percent — and energy demand will be critical. It's just a matter of figuring out how soon and how great demand will be, and finding the best way to meet it, she said. Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace likened the project to soda, saying it's important a proposal for a "can of coke" not end up with the construction of a "super-big gulp."
The city will soon share the cost with PSE of hiring a consultant to conduct the scoping process for a project environmental impact statement. This could be the platform for the council to address unanswered questions, but several councilmembers didn't dismiss the idea of another third-party study.