Puget Sound Energy is moving forward with the south end of Energize Eastside.
Expected to be complete by summer 2018, the south end of Energize Eastside will include the construction of the Richards Creek substation and upgrade of existing transmission lines in south Bellevue, Newcastle and Renton.
The Richards Creek substation will be located near the Factoria Transfer Station at 13800 SE 32nd St.
PSE officials held a public meeting Nov. 14 at the South Bellevue Community Center to alert the public on the permitting process.
Heidi Bedwell, the environmental planning manager for the city of Bellevue, explained the permitting process for the project’s conditional use permit and a critical areas land use permit. Keri Pravitz, a community projects manager for Puget Sound Energy, then presented information on the Bellevue south segment of Energize Eastside. Of that information were before and after photos of poles and power lines.
Kristi Weir, a member of neighborhood group CENSE (Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy), said the proposed metal monopoles would be significantly taller by 20-30-plus feet and thicker than current poles.
“The transmission lines they will support would be more widely visible than the existing transmission lines,” she said. “Pole and line visibility would also be increased because large trees near the transmission line would need to be removed. They will be replaced with species that do not grow as tall.”
Residents were given about an hour to make comments, which included CENSE president Don Marsh explaining that batteries are now feasible to meet peak demand and can provide both environmental and cost benefits. He said that PSE’s assessment that batteries could not adequately meet peak demand is based on a study that is “outdated and flawed in its assumptions.”
Other speakers emphasized the risk of placing 230,000-volt transmission lines over the Olympic pipeline due to construction or failure of the pipeline, which could cause a huge explosion and fire, Weir told the Reporter.
“… Residents shared incidents of damage caused when the current transmission lines fell onto their property and voiced concern of how much greater the future consequences could be if the line carried twice the voltage,” Weir added.
Diann Strom with Puget Sound Energy said members of the utility company have been talking to the community about Energize Eastside for four years, so many of the comments and questions posed at the meeting have been addressed.
“Safety is our top priority,” she said. “PSE transmission lines and Olympic’s pipeline have safely coexisted in existing corridor for decades and PSE and Olympic have a long history of working together and that continues with Energize Eastside. Our safety focus covers designs, constructions and operations. In addition, the EIS looked at safety and the Olympic pipeline and there is no substantial change in risk.”
Through a multi-year study process for the Environmental Impact Statement, Strom said PSE determined the viability of using batteries was impractical.
“It is something PSE and other industry experts have looked at and it doesn’t solve the Eastside’s need,” Strom said, adding that the existing capacity would not accommodate the number of batteries needed, which would take up about 15 football fields in size.
Weir and other CENSE members think the meeting should have been better publicized to the general public rather than just the residents who live within 500 feet of the project because “this project will affect most residents of Bellevue due to the change in landscape with much higher transmission lines and loss of tree canopy, not to mention that all residents will see their electric rates increase.”
The project is estimated to cost $300 million.
Strom said the city of Bellevue handled the notification process, as would the other cities of Newcastle and Renton when PSE applies for their conditional use permits in those cities.
CENSE members also took issue with the structure of the meeting, which, they say, didn’t allow questions from the floor. An open house, however, was held after that gave residents a chance to ask one-on-one questions to city staff and Puget Sound Energy personnel.
“We appreciate the opportunity to share about the project details for south Bellevue at this meeting that was very focused on permit submittal in south Bellevue,” Strom said. “We’re looking ahead and continuing on.”
Residents can submit comments on the project either online at firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing Heidi M. Bedwell, Environmental Planning Manager, 450 110th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004.
For more information on Energize Eastside, visit energizeeastside.com.