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BPA, town to meet tonight on powerline project

 

Scott Hunter photo

Stacked-rock walls, built in the 1930s line the old roadway behind town hall.

Town officials will have another opportunity tonight (Wednesday) to offer input on the Bonneville Power Administration’s Third Powerhouse powerline project.

BPA’s senior project manager, Mark A. Korsness, said he planned to be at tonight’s meeting, set for 6 p.m. at town hall, to again review plans to string the high power lines from the Third Powerhouse, across the river and up the hill to the switch yards.

BPA officials were in Coulee Dam in mid-December to review plans to get the project underway in February, but heard a lot of concerns town officials had about the project.

The BPA, which is doing the $10 million project for the Bureau of Reclamation, had plans to rebuild an access road behind city hall so trucks could transport materials and equipment to the site.

At a recent meeting, Mayor Quincy Snow stated that he was inclined to deny use of the access road.

However, the town may not have a choice in the matter. Korsness said that when the Bureau turned the access road over to the town, it retained the right to use the road.

In order to get trucks past city hall, the BPA said that it would temporarily disrupt handicapped access to city hall and some parking. That was a concern of city officials.

There was talk by city officials of building a handicap-access ramp on the front of city hall, or to put in an elevator that would take handicapped persons from the basement to the upper floor. The BPA didn’t discuss at the time what they would do to alleviate the problem of maintaining accessibility mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Korsness stated by phone that the BPA would address the handicap access question at tonight’s meeting.

In order to make the access road suitable for large trucks a retaining wall would have to be breached, but BPA officials said it would be rebuilt after the project was over.

Town Clerk Carol Visker said last week that several council members still had questions and concerns about the project.

The power lines, over 50 of them, would stretch from the Third Powerhouse to high towers, some about 350 feet high, as they made their way to the switchyards.

The towers in the park below the Visitor Center and some currently on the hill above the highway would be eliminated, and the wires would stretch in such a way as to avoid being over the Columbia River Inn’s swimming pool, a concern that showed up during in earlier public comments on the project.

Korsness said that the $10 million project would begin in February and take most of 2012 to complete. He said the project would be timed in such a way that the contractor could match the work to scheduled downtime of powerhouse generators. Generators in the Third Power House are undergoing a multi-million dollar refitting.

The powerline project replaces oil-cooled power lines that currently run underground from the Third Powerhouse to the switch yard. Current lines over the river are backup lines and do not now carry generated power.

Officials want to replace the oil-encased lines because of a fire in that system some years ago.

The lines, officials say, have large bulges on them and workers are concerned about going into the tunnel for normal maintenance.

Korsness said at the December meeting that he thought the concerns expressed by the council could be addressed so the project could stay on schedule.

 

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