A plan by Puget Sound Energy to enhance its energy grid has generated some early – and emotional – pushback in Enumclaw.
The regional power provider has discussed a desire to place new power poles along Garrett Street, between Griffin and Battersby avenues. As envisioned, they might tower over existing facilities; nothing is guaranteed at this point.
Early opposition has bemoaned everything from decreased property values to spoiled views. And, as an important aside, a vocal, local contingent has questioned why PSE’s proposal wasn’t widely advertised.
A key step in the process will come the evening of Feb. 11, when PSE makes a formal presentation as part of the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Enumclaw City Council. The session, open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1339 Griffin Ave.
The public utility has proposed the system upgrade as a way to ensure better and more consistent delivery of electricity to not only Enumclaw, but across the river into Pierce County.
Because the issue has gained traction in the city, it was a late addition to the City Council’s Jan. 14 agenda. Speaking at that time were a PSE representative, several council members and Troy Couch, who heads the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce.
In advance of the council meeting, chamber leadership had drafted a letter outlining their concerns and general opposition to the PSE plan. The one-page document, signed by Couch and Board Chairman Bert Tyler, noted the group’s “strong opposition” to the proposed Garrett Street project.
While understanding the need for increased local power, the letter expressed “great concerns about the current design and the process by which our citizens were informed of this project.”
The placement of 75-foot power poles, with accompanying transmission lines, would likely impact property values and diminish future economic growth in Enumclaw’s downtown core, the letter states. Additionally, it was noted that a series of towering poles would “forever change the small-town ambiance that is so important to us.”
With regard to transparency, the chamber letter took PSE to task for a perceived lack of information. An earlier public meeting was arranged but was not broadly advertised, resulting in attendance of just two people.
Given the chamber’s ultimate charge of enhancing the local business climate, the letter complained that PSE’s plan “may very well threaten potential economic development and quality of life in our community.”
Members of the Enumclaw City Council also spoke none too kindly about PSE’s proposal.
Hoke Overland noted how the city has created both a Comprehensive Plan and an Economic Development Plan, concluding that the PSE proposal “flies in the face of both of these.”
Kael Johnson spoke on behalf of the local Tourism Advisory Board, adding to the objections. “We work our tails off” to project a certain image, he said, and a series of 75-foot poles would be a detriment. He said the board was “absolutely against” the PSE plan, as envisioned.
Stepping to the podium, Couch summarized the trouble: “what we’re lacking is information,” he said, primarily addressing Julien Loh, the government affairs manager for PSE, who was in attendance.
SOME DETAILS ARE PROVIDED
The local project has a presence on the PSE website, where it is detailed in eight steps.
1. Build roughly 1.5 miles of 115kV transmission line (to operate at 55 kV) from the
Enumclaw substation on Battersby Avenue, along Garrett Street (following the existing distribution line) to the existing 55 kV transmission line on Stevenson Ave. This would involve the new lines crossing over busy Griffin Avenue.
2. Upgrade electrical equipment at the Enumclaw substation on Battersby Avenue.
3. Install a 115 kV capacitor bank within PSE’s Krain Corner substation (at 268th Avenue Southeast).
4. Build a new 115 kV transmission line to a new Buckley substation off 112th Street East and install a new fiber line between the new Buckley substation and Krain Corner substation.
5. Rebuild the Wilkeson substation from 55 kV to 115 kV and install a new 115 kV transformer and other related equipment.
6. Demolish the old Buckley substation.
7. Remove the old 55 kV equipment from the Electron Heights substation.
8. Convert the entire transmission system voltage from operating at 55 kV to operate at 115 kV.
THIS IS PHASE 3
The first phase was completed in 2009 and saw PSE rebuilding eight miles of transmission line between downtown Enumclaw and downtown Wilkeson. Phase 2, completed in 2010, involved the replacement of 12.2 miles of transmission line from Wilkeson to the Electron Heights station.