The Dalles Portland General Electric is bringing a shorter, retooled Cascade Crossing transmission project back before property owners and the public.
Plans proposed in 2009 for longer high-capacity transmission lines between locations near Boardman and Salem were scrapped. That longer project would have disturbed a significant number of spotted owl nests, as well as other wildlife, on its run through the Warm Springs Reservation and the Mt. Hood National Forest, explained John P. Sullivan, director of the Cascade Crossing Transmission Project. It also had vocal opposition in Marion County for its potential impact on exclusive farm use land.
The revised project now proposes to stretch a 122-mile, single-circuit 500-kilovolt transmission line between the utility’s Coyote Springs substation in Boardman and a new substation in Pine Grove, about 18 miles southwest of Maupin. The line will be developed under a memorandum of understanding with Bonneville Power Administration signed Jan. 14.
“We’re talking about negotiating a capacity exchange,” said Sullivan. “We both have capacity that the other is interested in.”
Capacity has driven a number of new transmission projects in the Pacific Northwest as more variable power production, like wind power, has come online. Variable resources require added capacity to accommodate their maximum production levels, even when annual averages are significantly less.
PGE’s stated goals for the project would be to enhance the reliability of the electrical grid and provide access to more renewable energy.
The Cascade Crossing would serve two wind projects from proposed substations between Arlington and Moro named Cedar Springs and Mikkalo. It would also carry power from one existing natural gas plant and the proposed 450-megawatt Carty gas plant, both in Boardman.
Meanwhile, PGE’s Boardman coal plant is scheduled to close in 2020, unless PGE converts it to biomass power production, Sullivan said.
“Carty is not a replacement for the Boardman coal plant,” Sullivan said. “It is to augment our existing needs.”
The revised Cascade Crossing line will follow the same path between Boardman and Maupin as originally proposed, then skirt the northern edge of the Warm Springs Reservation for about nine miles to the proposed Pine Grove substation. At that point, the project would connect to the existing transmission grid to bring electricity to the Willamette Valley.
The Pine Grove substation would link with three other transmission lines — the Ash-Marion, John Day-Marion and Buckley-Marion lines.
“PGE is building the substation and will be installing additional equipment to increase the capacity of its existing lines,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the outcome will be a better project than the original.
“When we got into negotiations with Bonneville, we took an interesting approach using ‘one utility’ planning,” he said, adding that it is good for the region. “It increases the operational flexibility of what we have and increases our capacity to utilize the existing system.”
He said the strategy calls for “right-sized, right-time” project development, which is an optimal condition.
Sullivan also said the partnership allows PGE and Bonneville each to better understand the challenges of the other.
“PGE first began developing Cascade Crossing after the PUD gave PGE a directive in 2004,” explained Patty Farrell, another PGE representative. The directive required PGE to work with Bonneville to develop transmission capacity over the Cascade Mountain Range.
The project is one of seven in the nation that have been identified as a Job-Creating Grid Modernization Pilot Project by the Obama administration and are the focus of the Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission. The team’s goal is to improve the quality and timeliness of electric transmission infrastructure permitting, review and consultation by the federal government.
If the project is approved, PGE will negotiate with property owners to buy an easement to build, operate and maintain the transmission project. PGE also will have to complete field studies on the segment of the new route between Maupin and Pine Grove to identify agricultural lands and practices, cultural and historic sites, and more than 420 species of plants, fish, wildlife and their habitats.
PGE is meeting with people whose property falls within the boundaries of the transmission line site to discuss the project and identify any specific areas of concern to the property owner. The project will go through state, federal and tribal permitting processes, which will allow opportunities for the public to comment. PGE is also seeking comment throughout the process, Farrell noted.
Construction of the project is expected to yield significant local economic benefits. Sullivan said PGE works particularly to use small and minority-owned businesses. The Pine Grove substation, alone, is expected to be a $120 million project.
Information and an opportunity to comment are available at the project website, www.cascadecrossingproject.com/default.aspx, by email at email@example.com, and by phone at 800-590-7265.