Two meetings have been scheduled for the public to comment on the preferred route for a high-voltage power transmission line that is to run from near Selah to Vantage.
The preferred route was identified in a draft environmental impact statement released by the federal Bureau of Land Management that is now open for public comment.
The favored route skirts the Army’s Yakima Training Center on the south and travels east, including next to a smaller existing power line that parallels State Route 24, before heading north toward Mattawa to reach the Vantage substation operated by the Bonneville Power Administration, a distance of more than 66 miles.
Pacific Power, a Portland-based investor-owned utility that serves 130,000 customers in the Yakima and Walla Walla valleys, is seeking right-of-way across a mix of public and private land. The company said the line is needed to eliminate overloading of existing transmission lines and to improve reliability.
All of the proposed routes avoid the Training Center and the Desert Aire area, south of Mattawa, primarily because of concerns over safety. The U.S. Army expressed concern that an above-ground crossing of the Training Center would pose a risk for military helicopters involved in training exercises. The utility rejected a proposal to bury the line as too expensive.
According to the document, the state Department of Transportation raised issues about any route that would follow State Route 243 near Desert Aire because of its possible impact on aircraft using the Desert Aire airport.
The 1,000-page document looks at a variety of issues related to construction of the line, which is proposed to be erected on poles rising from 65 to 90 feet above the ground.
Those issues include impacts to vegetation, wildlife habitat, agricultural, residential and military land uses, cultural resources, recreational activities, scenic views and transportation.
Among the species of concern is the greater sage grouse, a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. The training center supports one of the two distinct population segments for sage grouse in Central Washington. The other is located in Douglas and Grant counties.
According to the environmental report, the preferred alternative does not affect as much sage grouse habitat as other alternatives considered. The preferred alternative would also have the least amount of long-term disturbance on residential areas. Impacts on visual and cultural resources would also be minimized.
Residents can review the draft document online or at the libraries in Terrace Heights, 4011 Commonwealth Road, and Mattawa, 101 Manson Lane.
Comments must be submitted to BLM, the lead federal agency for the review, by Feb. 19 to be considered in a final environmental document to be released at a later date.