Groups sue to stop power transmission line in eastern Oregon

BAKER CITY, Ore. (AP) — Two groups have filed a federal lawsuit to block a proposed power transmission line that would run through two counties in northeast Oregon, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The Stop B2H Coalition and Greater Hells Canyon Council, both based in La Grande, Oregon, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Pendleton on Tuesday, The Baker City Herald said.

The plaintiffs say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service failed to adequately review the potential environmental impacts of the Idaho Power Company project.

Construction would start in 2022 on the nearly 300-mile line, with completion in 2026.

The line would run from near Boardman, Oregon to Hemingway, in southern Idaho, and is planned as a partnership between Idaho Power, PacifiCorp and the Bonneville Power Administration.

Idaho Power is not named in the complaint and plans to continue with its plans, with a goal of having 100% clean energy by 2045, said Jordan Rodriguez, Idaho Power spokesman.

Jim Kreider, co-chairperson for the Stop B2H Coalition, said in a press release that public comment on the environmental impacts of the project ended more than four years ago, before Idaho Power had completed the design for the line. After public comments, Kreider said, the plans were changed to pass within 2,000 feet of homes in La Grande.

“We are trying to prevent catastrophic damage to our public and private lands by an out-of-state corporation which prioritizes profits for its shareholders,” he wrote.

The lawsuit also cites potential public safety hazards along the proposed route, including geologic instability and excessive noise near homes, recreation areas and campgrounds.

The plaintiffs also cite concerns that Baker County residents have expressed for more than a decade — that the power line would mar views from the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, and cross historic wagon ruts.

Critics tried to persuade the BLM, which was the lead federal agency in considering Idaho Power’s application for the power line, to require the company to bury the line near the Interpretive Center. The current proposed route would run the power line between the Interpretive Center and Interstate 84, along the route of an existing power line about three miles east of Baker City.

“This power line would literally cut a permanent destructive swath through local forests and grasslands,” said Brian Kelly, restoration director for Greater Hells Canyon Council. Kelly also expressed concerns for BLM’s failure to adequately address impacts on wildlife corridors, clean water, climate change, habitat for elk, deer, salmon, and more.

“We must protect these values that are so important for all of us,” Kelly said.

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Information from: Baker City Herald, http://www.bakercityherald.com/