By Casey Crowley

About 35 people, including at least nine members of an opposition group, turned out for an informational meeting about the proposed Boardman to Hemingway power line project Tuesday evening at Baker City.

Idaho Power Company has applied for permits to build the 500-kilovolt line between Boardman, west of Pendleton, and Hemingway in Southern Idaho.

The company, which is working with the Bonneville Power Administration and PacifiCorp, received federal approval last year for a route that would extend the power line, known as B2H, across 68 miles in Baker County, including a section crossing Highway 86 on Flagstaff Hill between Baker Valley and the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

That section would run near Idaho Power’s existing 230-kilovolt transmission line.

Tuesday’s meeting was run by the Oregon Department of Energy, which is reviewing Idaho Power’s application.

The meeting was not a public hearing and the representatives from the Department of Energy did not take public comments.

After making a presentation about the application process, agency officials had a question-and-answer session moderated by Bridger Wineman from consulting firm Enviroissues.

The audience included members from Stop B2H, a group that opposes the transmission line and contends the project is not justified.

All three Baker County commissioners also attended — Bill Harvey, Bruce Nichols and Mark Bennett — along with Holly Kerns, the county’s planning director.

Six officials from Idaho Power also attended, along with three from the Department of Energy.

Among the questions from the audience Tuesday were two issues that opponents to B2H have repeated — has Idaho Power considered alternative energy sources to make the line unnecessary, and has the company looked into burying the power line, at least in some areas, rather than building towers.

Mark Stokes, Idaho Power’s integrated resource and operations plan manager, said the company has asked customers if they’re willing to pay more for energy from alternative sources, and typically most answered no.

Stokes also said that burying the power line could cost about 25 times more than a traditional line suspended from towers.

The project was first proposed in 2007. If the state approves the line, construction could start in 2022 and be concluded in 2025.

The Department of Energy expects to issue a Draft Proposed Order in the first quarter of 2019 that will include a recommendation as to whether or not the state’s Energy Facility Siting Council should grant Idaho Power a permit.

The Council will schedule a series of public hearings after the Draft Proposed Order is released.

See more in the Oct. 17, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.