Banding together to stop B2H

Aug. 27 is the deadline for contesting Idaho Power’s proposed but unneeded power line through Baker County and Eastern Oregon. For anyone who believes that Idaho Power’s Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) transmission line will provide more benefit than damage, forget it. Baker gets nothing from Idaho Power except giving visitors to the Interpretive Center a commanding view of their powerlines. Idaho Power is polishing up their defense of their 20,000-page application for their permit from the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE).

However, contrary to their PR about being a down-home honest corporation their track record of misinformation and underhanded dealings remains on course. Here are some — just a few of many — items that Idaho Power is trying to slip by and hide unnoticed in their permit application.

Running 305 miles through Eastern Oregon (Baker County is carrying the most — 71 miles) Idaho Power proposes to weasel out of responsibility for any wildfires they start while building the project, or from downed and broken lines. The burden of containing the fires will be put primarily on local volunteer fire departments. They can ignite fires like the one that burnt up Paradise and kill 80-some people but will not be responsible for it.

Where the powerlines cross private lands, Idaho Power plans to avoid having to provide mitigation for the indirect impacts their use of existing roads — improved roads and ones they create — by just getting the landowners to gate the roads off, meaning access roads used for building and maintaining the powerlines could — and many will — be gated and locked denying public access for hunting or other activities. So much for Idaho Power’s pledge to be a good neighbor.

Road building will be allowed within 25 feet of streams. Which means that the current riparian laws protecting streams and rivers in Oregon are meaningless. We are letting a big out-of-state corporation run roughshod over our laws and regulations that are made to protect both us and our land and rivers.

That our own state Department of Energy plans to allow Idaho Power’s powerline to exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended noise decibel level and give Idaho Power a blanket exemption from the DEQ noise rules because the B2H cannot comply with our Oregon State standards. Smell of back-room dealings?

And, a real doozy: ODOE requires a bond to restore the land in case Idaho Power wishes to quit the project or they go bankrupt. ODOE decided that a bond amount of $1 will be sufficient for the first 50 years. A dollar? What the heck is the purpose of a bond if it doesn’t protect the citizens it is there for? Who is ODOE working for?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Already what other nefarious underhanded surprises and stop-at-nothing tactics Idaho Power has also hidden is anyone’s guess. ODOE can’t tell us because it doesn’t appear they have perused it or plan to. Unfortunately, public input for this near-final round is closed except for those who testified (at the hearings) last summer — and our public representatives. In Baker we are blessed to have the Batman/Robin team of Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett and Baker County Planning Director Holly Kerns who have fought this project from the beginning. But these are two Davids fighting an entire stable of corporate law-trained Goliaths. Where are the rest of our representatives to stop this debacle? Don’t let Idaho Power ruin our county — or eastern Oregon. Government agencies such as ODOE are there to protect the public, not to help out-of-state for-profit corporations to invade and erode the standards of our rural endangered lifestyle. It’s way overdue for other representatives to kick in for what they were elected and/or hired to do: Represent the people. Stop B2H.

Whit Deschner lives in Baker City.

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