Advisory group endorses Energize Eastside route

January 2, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Suggested routes go through Newcastle

The Community Advisory Group working on Puget Sound Energy’s Energize Eastside transmission line upgrade project has made its final route recommendations and both include Segment M, which goes through Newcastle.

The panel — comprised of neighborhood, business and civic leaders — selected routes Oak and Willow at its final meeting Dec. 10. The advisory group’s final recommendation is based on its work over the past year, including discussion of community feedback collected throughout 2014.

Of the 20 advisory group members and residential alternates present at the meeting, 17 supported the final recommendation. Of those 17, eight expressed preference for the Oak route and five expressed preference for the Willow route, while four supported either route.

Three advisory group members had a dissenting opinion and supported none of the routes. One was Olympus resident Sue Stronk.

“I was one of the three that refused to vote on any final route, as any vote would harm our residents since segment M is in both remaining routes,” she wrote in a letter to fellow residents.

These are the final recommended routes that now move on to PSE for an even more thorough review:

  • Oak (Segments A-C-E-G2-I-K2-M-N)
  • Willow (Segments A-C-E-J-M-N)

PSE will ultimately make an announcement about routing after reviewing the Community Advisory Group’s recommendation, larger public feedback and opportunities and constraints surrounding the project. That decision is expected in early 2015.

The Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy said in a news release that the “outcome of this process does not represent the wishes of the community.”

Credit: Puget Sound Energy The Puget Sound Energy Community Advisory Group recommended Oak and Willow routes for the Energize Eastside project. Both include Segment M, which runs through Newcastle.

Credit: Puget Sound Energy
The Puget Sound Energy Community Advisory Group recommended Oak and Willow routes for the Energize Eastside project. Both include Segment M, which runs through Newcastle.

CENSE said it believes PSE prematurely eliminated better energy alternatives and never gave the Community Advisory Group a chance to consider them.

Some members of the advisory group worked together to submit a dissenting report, challenging PSE’s stance that Energize Eastside is the most cost-effective way to meet the needs of future energy demands.

Newcastle Community Development Director Tim McHarg was among those who signed their names to the five-page document presented to PSE at the end of December.

“The city of Newcastle supports PSE in its efforts to deliver reliable and cost effective solutions to the Eastside’s energy needs for existing and future residents and businesses,” McHarg said in a news release. “However, the CAG process did not offer sufficient depth or breadth of data, analysis or alternatives to determine the best solutions to these needs.

“If pursued, the resulting recommendation would have significant and irreparable impacts on homes and businesses along the routes and to our entire community, since both routes run through the middle of Newcastle.”

McHarg went on to say that based on the information collected to date, city staff are unconvinced that the proposed instillation of high-voltage power lines is the only available option.

“We encourage affected cities and the public to participate in the Environmental Impact Statement process for Energize Eastside to ensure a clear understanding of the nature of the problem and the impacts of feasible alternative solutions,” he said.

The process appears far from over, as affected cities, led by Bellevue, come together to hire an independent consultant to research the project, and work through the Environmental Impact Statement process.

Also during the coming months, PSE will work directly with property owners and tenants to begin detailed fieldwork to inform the route alignment, project design, the environmental review process and permit applications; ask for community input on project design, which may include pole location, height, finish and other design considerations; and work with the city of Bellevue and other affected jurisdictions and agencies on the project’s Environmental Impact Statement process.

“Olympus already has experienced a homebuyer, after placing a down payment, back out of the sale after learning of this project coming to their back yard,” Stronk said. “Our residents will suffer monetarily by this project.”

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