Powerline discussion to continue

High voltage lines may soon cross the Columbia in a different location in front of Grand Coulee Dam.

USBR, BPA to hold public meeting on options in Environmental Assessment report on moving powerlines to the surface

The Bonneville Power Administration will call a public meeting in Coulee Dam May 18 to gather public reaction to its findings on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s plan to move a cluster of high voltage power lines from an underground tunnel and string them across the Columbia River in front of Grand Coulee Dam, erecting new power towers as part of the process.

The Bureau asked BPA to handle the public input part of the process because of its experience in dealing with the public on such matters.

The process has taken longer than planned due to public input already expressed in opposition to initial plans presented.

Bureau and BPA officials say the current lines running through a tunnel need to be replaced. They are insulated with fluid oil beneath liners that are bulging in places. Workers don’t feel safe inspecting the lines running through the tunnel where a fire has taken them out in the past.

Lynne Brougher, public affairs officer for the USBR, told the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday the meeting was scheduled.

Brougher said the EA addresses options for the move. The bureau’s “preferred option,” she said, would span the Columbia to a point more upstream than two mostly dormant sets of lines that could be eliminated, to a tower further uphill.

This would avoid interference with the nightly laser light show on the face of the dam, and it would move the old lines away from a motel swimming pool over which the current dormant lines pass.

It may require much taller towers, however, a possibility to which residents of west Coulee Dam had objected earlier.

Details on the options within the final EA are not clear. The Bureau has not announced a release of the document yet.


Questions I have yet to ask:

1. Was a request to consider an alternate route across Lake Roosevelt behind the dam ever considered? If not, why not? If so, why was it rejected?

2. What is the range of costs for the alternatives listed in the final EA? What would the cost have been for the above?

3. What would the cost be in terms of lost power production and sales if the current lines were to fail?

4. With the recent reductions in already appropriated spending approved by Congress, is this or any other planned upgrade at Grand Coulee Dam in jeopardy?

If anyone can think of other questions I should ask, please post a comment.

About Scott Hunter

Editor of The Star newspaper in Grand Coulee, observer of life, history, patterns in things that matter.
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