Bellevue residents opposing the removal of nearly 300 trees for a Puget Sound Energy redundancy project between the Lake Hills and Phantom Lake substations lost their appeal to city council on Monday, however, they did so quietly.
PSE began planning the addition of a second transmission line connecting the two substations in 2006, wanting to ensure residents wouldn’t lose power when a line to either substation went down.
No one had been allowed to publicly testify for or against PSE’s application, since a hearing examiner approved it last November following a public comment session. Any comments or emails councilmembers received since that time had to be disregarded by officials in order to make an impartial decision on the application on Monday.
Working with the city of Bellevue, area businesses and residents, PSE came up with a 2.89-mile route for the new 115-kilovolt electrical transmission line along Southeast 16th Street, 148th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Eighth Street.
PSE will also pay the city $856,000 for the material costs to replace the lost trees and add more landscaping. A 5-year monitoring plan is also included in plans to ensure the new plantings survive, however, opponents believe the character in their neighborhoods will be lost when 295 mature trees come down.
“I had no idea we were at the end game,” said Don Marsh, co-founder of the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy, which has protested along the route with ribbons around trees and outside city hall over the past several weeks. Marsh said he’d heard a little about the project, but assumed there would be citywide notice of the November public hearing. “I thought this is something we should keep our eyes on for when it comes up.”
Councilmember John Stokes said he supports reliable electricity in Lake Hills and Phantom Lake, and believes evidence was provided to justify the project.
“We all ran to be city councilmembers, not judges,” added Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace, but the council needed to make a decision based on evidence only. “The fact is that I don’t see anything that was a finding by the hearing examiner that wasn’t supported by the record.”
The council approved PSE’s transmission line application 6-1, with Councilmember Jennifer Robertson dissenting.
“I think this circuit needs to be closed,” she said. “I just don’t think it needs to be closed on this corridor.”