The Bonneville Power Administration is making available a summary of more than 6900 comments from more than 3000 local residents, officials, agencies and others related to its I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project. The comments will help shape BPA’s continuing environmental review of the proposed project, which calls for construction of a 500-kV transmission line to serve growing electricity needs in the Portland/Vancouver area. The line would help ease growing congestion and help avoid possible unexpected power outages.

“The comments we received provide valuable insight and information we need as we consider this important project,” said Mark Korsness, BPA project manager. “We thank everyone who took the time to participate in our open houses and provide comments.”

Individuals who commented asked BPA to explore issues, including the location and design of the proposed transmission line, potential human health effects related to transmission lines, potential impact to property values, ability to sell land, inherent quality of life, impacts to the natural environment and visual impacts. BPA is analyzing these and other issues related to the project and will present its findings in a draft environmental impact statement it expects to release for review early next year.

“We are committed to sharing information about the project quickly and frequently,” said Korsness. “Keeping the lines of communication open as we meet the challenge of growing local and regional energy needs will benefit BPA, local landowners and others with an interest in the project.”

In December 2009, BPA eliminated four of the originally proposed 52 segments under consideration for the project, based on limiting factors identified during scoping and additional study. Project officials are concentrating on the remaining 48 segments. Those segments include several existing BPA rights-of-way that could accommodate a new line for the much needed reinforcement between Castle Rock and Troutdale, as well as numerous other segments without power lines.

BPA continues to gather information along its remaining proposed segments for the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project. The agency will use this information along with information provided from the scoping comments to further evaluate and refine potential routing alternatives to be considered in its draft EIS. The draft EIS is slated for completion in early 2011. BPA will publicly circulate the draft EIS and take additional comments, after which it will prepare a final EIS. The agency expects to decide whether to build the line in 2012. At that time, if the decision is to build, a final route would be identified.

BPA is proposing the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project because congestion on its transmission system in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon has reached limits that now threaten reliability. BPA has not expanded its transmission system in the area for 40 years. The agency has used a combination of aggressive conservation measures and technical solutions to keep pace with the area’s energy needs.

Energy demand in the Portland/Vancouver area is generally forecast to grow at about 1 to 2 percent per year. However, in recent years, energy demand has exceeded that amount and in some cases has grown up to 5 percent per year. There is also rapid growth in the amount of wind resources connected to or seeking connection to the BPA transmission system. State renewable portfolio standards require utilities to acquire specific proportions of their power supply from qualifying renewable sources, such as wind generation, or to purchase comparable amounts of Renewable Energy Certificates.

“Between now and the release of the draft EIS, we must continue to help the public understand why a solution to the transmission challenges we face is necessary,” said Korsness. “The line will help us avoid potential blackouts in the local Portland/Vancouver area and help deliver clean energy to the local area and the region.”