Joshua Dillen
The Baker City Herald

Baker County is prepared to negotiate on behalf of county landowners whose property is along the proposed route of Idaho Power Company’s proposed Boardman to Hemingway transmission line.

The County Board of Commissioners voted Dec. 6 to send a letter to the landowners to gauge their interest in partnering with the county.

The letter has yet to be sent to the approximately 35 landowners in the proposed path of the power line.

“The County is committed to continuing the fight for equity for our landowners specifically and the County at large,” the letter states.

The project, known as B2H, is under consideration by the Oregon Department of Energy, a process that could take up to two years.

The BLM approved a route in November that crosses primarily private property in Baker County, but the state process will determine the final route.

Idaho Power, which is working in partnership with PacifiCorp and the Bonneville Power Administration, first proposed B2H about a decade ago.

“A constant suggestion made by landowners during this lengthy progression has been for the County to assume the lead in discussions on property acquisition for the line by Idaho Power should the line be approved,” the county’s letter to landowners states.

Among the landowners who would be affected is Mike Ragsdale, who owns 90 acres near Highway 86 a few miles of Baker City.

He is pleased that the county is offering to advocate for property owners to make sure they get a fair deal for their land should the power line be built.

“I think it’s a great idea for all parties,” said Ragsdale, who was involved in early efforts to oppose B2H, which he contends wouldn’t benefit Baker County.

“It’s a blatant lie that we’re all going to benefit from it,” Ragsdale said. “It’s a transmission line. It isn’t a supply line.”

He said he lobbied to change the proposed route to avoid the need to build a tower that would have blocked his view of Baker Valley from his home.

“Otherwise I would have had a tower right at eye-level in front of my house,” Ragsdale said. “I have a million-dollar view and they were just about ready to trash it.”

He said the route approved by the BLM is on the eastern end of his property, where it would not obstruct his view of the valley.

“I’ve been fortunate in that they’ve decided to put it behind me,” Ragsdale said.

But he said the proposed route would still mar his views in other directions.

Ragsdale’s property is in the path of an existing 230-kilovolt power line owned by Idaho Power. He said Idaho Power already holds the easement for that line but it would need a wider swath for the 500-kilovolt B2H line.

He said he hasn’t had any discussion with Idaho Power about expanding the existing easement.

While he is not at all happy the proposed power line will cross his property, Ragsdale is pleased to have the opportunity to work with Baker County on the power company’s land acquisition process “just to make sure that everybody is adequately reimbursed (for their property.”

“It isn’t going to be a whole lot for me,” he said. “But to make sure that the people that are heavily impacted are adequately compensated I think is critical.”

Randy Lane, right of way agent for Idaho Power, said if the property owners want someone to represent them, that’s their right.

“Typically, we negotiate with property owners because they are the only ones that know the most about their property than anybody else does,” Lane said. “If they want representation, that’s fine. They can do that if they feel more comfortable with that.”

Jeff Maffucio, Idaho Power’s facility siting coordinator, said his company wants to be “more than fair with landowners” when going through the right of way acquisition process He said Idaho Power is committed to caring for the private lands it will be working on, not just about compensation.

“We clean up. We mitigate or we minimize impacts and we and we compensate for that,” he said. “It’s not just we go up and we leave a mess behind. We’re contractually obligated to meet the landowners’ requirements.”

See more in the Dec. 27, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.