Eastside digging a step toward Puget Sound Energy's high voltage line | KUOW News and Information

Eastside digging a step toward Puget Sound Energy's high voltage line

Sep 8, 2017

Eastside property owners may get a visit from archaeological teams this month as part of Puget Sound Energy’s mega-project known as Energize Eastside. Puget Sound Energy has sent out crews to assess the ground below its transmission line.

Puget Sound Energy wants to replace its Eastside transmission line with a new, high-voltage one. The utility announced in August that construction on the $300 million line could start as soon as next summer.

The utility says at certain locations near its power poles, archaeologists will conduct a “shovel probe” to identify artifacts or evidence of past human activities. PSE says “data gathered from these on-the-ground surveys will help us refine our design and inform permit submittals.”

There’s one group, however, that says it may take legal action to try to halt the entire project.

The Bellevue-based coalition known as CENSE has long said installing high-voltage lines poses a risk for explosions. CENSE President Don Marsh says that's because there's an oil pipeline directly underground.

Marsh: “Sure, they're going to make every effort to be safe, but the fact is, under even the best circumstances you can have a pipeline breach that would release tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel or gasoline into highly populated, residential neighborhoods.”

Marsh says a safer alternative than power lines is giant, high-power batteries. San Diego uses that type of system now.

PSE spokesperson Andy Wappler says without a transmission line upgrade, the growing Eastside could face power shortages or blackouts in the future.

Wappler: "The eastside has grown by a factor of 7 since the existing power line was put in, and more people are coming every day. And while energy efficiency is a big part of our future, we're simply growing faster than we're saving energy."

Energize Eastside has been in development, and subject to public comment, for nearly four years. In August, the utility announced its preferred transmission line route: the existing power corridor running between Redmond, Bellevue and Renton. Alternatives called for placing the transmission line at different locations across I-90.

Bellevue and other nearby cities need to approve the power line before PSE can start construction.

Marsh says if it moves forward, a legal challenge is possible.