Power struggle

 

Move over, gas wells. Here comes the latest NIMBY issue: the construction of new transmission lines, an Obama administration priority as the new president seeks to stimulate the economy and rebuild U.S. infrastructure. A proposal from Idaho Power Co., touted as a regional and national priority, is causing quite a stir in rural Oregon's Baker County, where 110 residents came out to a meeting this month, mostly to oppose the high-voltage (500KV) power route.

Idaho Power wants to string the lines from giant, pricey towers (180 feet tall and 80 feet wide, at a cost of $1.3 million each) along Interstate 84 through 70 miles of Baker County ranch and farmland. An alternate route would take the lines along ridges and out of sight of most landowners, but that's sage grouse territory -- another political and environmental problem.

Besides objections based on visual and possible health impacts, landowners are afraid other utilities, including natural gas companies, will use the corridor to piggyback their projects, opening a Pandora's box of issues. They're also worried about what else the lines will inspire: "Rest assured," wrote a blogger on an activist website, "if we as citizens allow this transmission line, we will have horizon-to-horizon windmills."