Newcastle City Council roundup — April 1
April 2, 2014
By Christina Corrales-Toy
NEW — 3 p.m. April 2, 2014
The Newcastle City Council held its first meeting of the month April 1. Here is the Cliffs Notes version of what happened at City Hall. View the full meeting agenda online here.
In what was the most well-attended City Council meeting of the last two years, much of the time was dominated by discussion of Puget Sound Energy’s Energize Eastside project.
About 50 people packed council chambers to hear a presentation from Andy Wappler, PSE’s vice president of corporate affairs.
The project, in response to the region’s growing power needs, will bring new higher capacity electric transmission lines to the Eastside.
The new lines will extend from a substation in Redmond to Renton, but the exact route the lines will take is currently undecided. One of the proposed routes directly affects the Olympus neighborhood.
The region’s growth is straining the current transmission system, Wappler said, and by 2017 or 2018 demand for reliable power will exceed capacity, making power outages more likely.
Conservation alone is not enough to remedy the problem, Wappler said, significant infrastructure upgrades are also necessary.
PSE’s solution is to build about 18 miles of new 230 kV transmission lines from Redmond to Renton. That corridor west of Lake Sammamish is where the demands of the electric system are the heaviest, according to PSE.
There are 16 different route segments and 19 different alignments of them that the transmission lines can take, according to a PSE proposal.
Any of them that connects the north to the south, “gets the job done,” Wappler said. PSE doesn’t have a preferred route, either, he said, just a preferred outcome — one that ensures the company keeps delivering reliable power.
The one that goes through Newcastle is Route M, which is located from Southeast 95th Way to Newcastle Way. The corridor is on the westside of the Eden’s Grove subdivision and on the eastside of the Olympus and Hazelwood communities.
Newcastle residents had the opportunity to speak after Wappler’s presentation and expressed several concerns about the installation of high-voltage power lines through their community.
The main concerns were outlined in a petition, crafted by a local coalition of neighbors dubbed Citizens for Sane Eastside Energy, to the Newcastle City Council.
Health issues, loss of property values, safety and view obstruction were among the things that concerned residents.
There was debate between residents and the PSE representatives about the true nature of health concerns related to the electromagnetic fields connected to high-voltage lines.
Wappler said studies show there is no conclusive link between electromagnetic fields and health issues.
Newcastle resident Larry Johnson contested that, pointing to a 2002 California Department of Health Services study that notes electromagnetic fields could cause cancer.
“Are we going to be the guinea pigs to find out if this is true or not,” Johnson asked the PSE representatives.
Johnson also requested of the City Council to allow citizens to give their own presentation about what this project means to their community at a future meeting.
Another consideration unique to the community is the gas pipeline that sits along the corridor. According to Olympus resident Dave Edmonds, the Olympic Pipe Line Co. too has concerns about the project going along Route M, due to the potential safety issues of constructing along lines which supply jet fuel to SeaTac Airport.
One of the community’s requested alternatives is an underground power line solution. It’s a request that PSE hears often.
Underground lines limit the visual impact, but are far more costly than overhead lines, Wappler said.
PSE estimates the construction and engineering for underground lines is about $20 million to $28 million per mile, compared to $3 million to $4 million for overhead.
Furthermore, Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission regulations require the local jurisdiction or customer group requesting underground transmission lines to pay the difference between overhead and underground costs.
PSE is in the midst of a yearlong public outreach process to solicit feedback about route options. The company is the final decision maker when it comes to the route, though. Construction is tentatively scheduled for 2016 or 2017.
The Newcastle City Council took no action or position on the matter at the informational presentation.
Odds and Ends
The City Council had a few other things on its agenda for the night, including a discussion about marijuana. Three of the four agenda items were postponed due to the length of the PSE discussion, however.
In the only other business of the night, the council approved 4-1 a resolution authorizing the city manager to move forward in executing a contract with a construction company for 125th Avenue Southeast sidewalk and driveway improvements.
Deputy Mayor John Drescher was not in attendance, and Councilman Gordon Bisset abstained from the vote, since his driveway is among the improvements. Councilman Rich Crispo was the lone dissent.
The council is expected to receive the quarterly update about capital projects in the city, as well as a report about the Lake Boren water quality at the April 15 meeting.
Further down the road, City Manager Rob Wyman also noted that the council plans to hold its annual town hall meeting earlier this year, on June 3.