BPA to rebuild Albany-Eugene lines

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) plans to issue the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) this spring for its proposed rebuilding of a 32-mile section of the 115-kV Albany-Eugene No. 1 transmission line that runs between Albany and Eugene in Oregon.

Other than necessary maintenance, no major work has been performed on the line since it was placed in service in the 1940s. “Many of the wooden poles on this line are now more than 70 years old – well beyond the 55 to 60 years we expected to get out of them,” a BPA spokesperson told TransmissionHub on April 5.

Other items, including the conductor, cross arms, insulators, and dampers, are also physically worn and structurally unsound in places. “We need to rebuild this line to maintain reliable electrical service and to avoid safety risks to the public and maintenance crews,” the spokesperson said.

BPA plans to establish temporary access roads and improve some existing access roads; develop staging areas for storage of materials; and remove and replace existing wooden poles and conductor. New structures would be of similar design to the existing poles, and be placed within the existing 100-foot right-of-way.

In addition, there are approximately 6,300 trees that are encroaching on the right-of-way and need to be trimmed or removed completely for safety reasons as well as for compliance with North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability standards. In addition, the project would clear vegetation on 56 acres of land.

Following completion of the rebuild, BPA will re-vegetate areas disturbed by construction activities. The line will continue to operate at 115 kV. Cost of rebuilding the line is estimated at $16.1m.

BPA held public meetings in November 2010 and in February to inform the public and to solicit comments. The March 5 deadline for comments on the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) passed with about a half-dozen public comments.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) expressed concerns about the impact vegetation clearing would have on migratory bird nesting habitat. DOI recommended that clearing be conducted outside of the normal migratory bird nesting window, and work with both DOI and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a mitigation strategy.

The EPA comments rated the DEIS as “LO”, or “lack of objections,” but recommended that BPA work with appropriate state agencies to monitor water quality in the construction area, and work with state and federal agencies to reduce risks to “biota and habitat.”

While BPA officials believe the line needs to be rebuilt, the forthcoming FEIS will also examine the impacts of not rebuilding the line, and instead continuing with current operation and maintenance practices.