Tillamook, Ore., PUD, siting dispute headed back to Oregon appeals board

The siting dispute between the Tillamook (Ore.) People’s Utility District (PUD) and the city of Tillamook, Ore., over a proposed 115-kV power line from Tillamook, Ore., to Oceanside on the Oregon coast is headed back to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) after the two sides failed to negotiate a settlement outside of the formal appeals process.

“We have received a supplement record and are waiting for the petition for review that is due from the Tillamook People’s Utility District,” a LUBA spokesperson told TransmissionHub Oct. 22.

That petition for review is due on Nov. 5, and the response brief from the city of Tillamook will be due 21 days later. Following that, the parties will present oral arguments before the three-member LUBA, which will then have 35 days to issue its opinion.

The Tillamook City Planning Commission approved the project on Jan. 3 and granted a conditional use permit for the proposed transmission line, an action that was countered almost immediately by the filing of an appeal by a local landowner who would potentially have been affected by the line along its approved route. The routing, the landowner claimed, would have frozen some of the development potential on his property.

Other area landowners also protested the route for which the planning commission granted a permit, asserting that the route through the city’s downtown core would affect the area’s character and the development potential of their properties, and therefore would be detrimental to the city.

The Tillamook City Council agreed and, on March 5, overturned the planning commission’s decision, prompting the Tillamook PUD in May to seek LUBA’s intervention. Subsequent to the PUD’s request, the utility and the City of Tillamook filed a stipulated agreement May 15 that delayed until Aug. 22 the deadline for the city to submit its record of events to the board.

At the same time the utility’s board of directors approved the appeal to LUBA, it also asked the PUD counsel to reach out to the citizens who had objected to determine if a mutually satisfactory solution could be reached. The board also instructed counsel to pursue a mediation process that would allow for continued discussions to identify potential solutions to mitigate the issues and concerns of the parties.

However, the parties were unable to reach agreement outside the formal process and the PUD filed the supplemental record, restarting the LUBA process, according to the spokesperson.

As originally planned, the line would stretch approximately seven miles from the Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) Tillamook substation east of town through the city center before heading west toward the Pacific Ocean. A number of alternate routes were studied and considered, according to the PUD, but the proposed route was chosen based upon the impact to landowners, engineering and cost to build the line.

The project is needed to enhance reliability along a three-mile stretch of the Oregon coast from Oceanside south to Netarts, Ore., which is currently served by a single radial distribution line. The project would add redundancy to the coastal area and would also enhance reliability in the Tillamook area by taking some of the load off the existing Tillamook substation when demand is high, such as often occurs during the winter months. Tillamook PUD is a winter-peaking utility.

Pending a ruling on the appeal of the conditional use permit, the utility will conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed project.

The transmission portion of the project is estimated to cost between $3.5m and $5m, depending on the final route alignment and the types of structures that will be required. The expense of building a new substation near Oceanside will be in addition to that figure, but has not yet been quantified.

Tillamook PUD had hoped to begin construction in 2014. Inquiries to the PUD seeking additional details were not responded to by press time Oct. 22.