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Deschutes County officials briefed on new 180-mile Pacific Power transmission line, still in early planning stages

(Adding video, comments from commissioners and Pacific Power project manager)

If all goes well and as proposed, it could be in service in eight years

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A lot of work and attention these days is focusing on new ways to generate power – but if we keep depending on utility companies to move a lot of that energy around and deliver it to our homes, they have to keep their transmission lines and distribution systems up to speed.

Like other big utility companies, Pacific Power must plan ahead for those future needs, as best they can – and that’s why they are in the early planning stages for a new 180-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line in Central and south-central Oregon and keeping local governments up to speed, even before a specific proposed route is chosen.

Deschutes County commissioners got a briefing at their Monday afternoon work session on a project the multi-state utility calls “Blueprint South.”

"Our current transmission system is becoming, overwhelmed with increased load demands," Pacific Power Project Manager John Aniello said at Monday's meeting, "So as part of our requirements as a regulated utility, we have to ensure that we can deliver power safely and without interruption to everybody who needs it."

The county's issue summary for the get-together indicated Pacific Power is in the early planning stage of a high-transmission line connecting existing and proposed substations in Deschutes, Crook, Klamath, Lake and Harney counties.

The utility is engaged in a routing study for a preferred and alternate routes, expected to be completed early next year. But the process will take several more years for construction to actually happen. And then there's the big question - the price tag; a company spokesman said Friday the cost of the project is still being calculated.

"We have a lot of directives, federal agencies and state agencies to kind of co-locate lines," Anello said. "We're trying to parallel existing roads. So everything we're doing is to attempt to reduce the overall impacts of the placement of this line. and that's what we're doing as part of our routing study work."

Like other, familiar big transmission-line towers, the steel structures will be 160 to 180 feet tall, 40 to 60 feet wide and about 800 to 1,400 feet apart, within a 250-foot-wide right of way.

Their plan is to “parallel existing linear facilities” – transmission lines, roads and railroads – wherever possible, “in areas of compatible land use,” or “areas previously disturbed” by other development.

Commissioner Tony DeBone appeared supportive of the project Monday's meeting.

"Wherever they're going to be is going to be a community discussion for all of us to be engaged in," he said, "The future is really going to get interesting here in the electricity world."

Commissioner Phil Chang asked representatives about the expected environmental impacts, since the transmission line would go through tribal land and protected forests. The Pacific Power study will involve 10 to 20 engineers identifying sensitive areas that would be avoided.

"Right now, we're just in the phase of providing that or pulling together that inventory of resources," Aniello said. And we really don't have a good idea yet of where those opportunities are."

Article Topic Follows: Business

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Barney Lerten

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Isabella Warren

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