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Council needs to power up | GUEST COMMENTARY
By DAVE KOMENDAT
On Thursday, March 27, I attended a community workshop at Renton Technical College sponsored by Puget Sound Energy to discuss their “Energize-The-Eastside” project.
For the many citizens out there who have not heard about this effort, it’s a project to bring additional power capacity to the Eastside, particularly the communities north of Renton. I don’t question the “why” we have a need for more power to deal with our current and future energy needs, I question the “how” this effort is being managed by PSE.
The meeting was touted as an opportunity for local residents who could be significantly impacted by the proposed new power routes to share our concerns. The reality was that it became a PSE game of hide-and-seek.
PSE Communications Vice President Andy Wappler started the meeting with an overview of the power needs for the region. The case for power is credible, the methods being used to make their decisions are far less so.
A PSE-hired facilitator initially indicated that 10 minutes would be allotted for Q&A before we were broken up into tables by possible route selection. It was immediately apparent that smoke and mirrors instead of honest answers would be what the citizens in attendance at this tightly scripted dog-and-pony show would be receiving that evening.
“I don’t have that information; I can’t answer that question; we don’t have the data,” were PSE’s responses to many questions. I commend the elderly gentleman who forced one very important answer from PSE:
The City of Renton Building Permitting Office does have the power to NOT issue permits for the proposed new 100-foot high power poles that will carry 230kVs of electricity through neighborhoods that border the southeast side of Lake Washington.
I found this interesting because to date, our Renton City Council members have been eerily silent on their position regarding PSE’s proposed project and those that have spoken seem to feel “that there is not much they can do.” We now know that they can do a lot to protect the quality of life for many, many residents of Renton if they chose to make the right decision.
Most of the poles, if installed, would be within 45 feet of existing homes. The narrow swath of trees that act as a sound and visual buffer today between the southbound 405 and residents would all be removed. The nesting areas for existing bald eagles and osprey would be gone, the replacement foliage would be shrubbery that could not grow taller that 15 feet. The removal of these trees and other foliage would undoubtedly create an unstable hillside which creates further risk to residents that could be impacted.
PSE has lots of options; however, they have told us that placing the powerlines underground will cost $20 million per mile and that underground placement is deemed cosmetic and therefore becomes the burden of the requesting municipality and residents to pay those additional costs. $20M a mile? Seem’s like more smoke and mirrors.
Renton City Council members, now is the time for you to stand up and have an opinion on this issue. Let PSE know that if they want to run lines though Renton, that they need to bury them at their cost. PSE has the money, so don’t let them kid you that they can’t afford it because they can and YOU CAN make it happen.
Time to let us all know where you stand council members; we’re waiting to hear from you!
Dave Komendat is a Renton resident.