Power line project set to start in a week
The Bonneville Power Administration and the town of Coulee Dam still have issues to work out on the project to stretch power lines from the Third Powerhouse to the switch yards.
That became apparent last Wednesday night when Mayor Quincy Snow told BPA officials that they didn’t “have the right to do this,” meaning using the city’s access road behind city hall. He was referring to BPA telling the town that it had the right to use the access road behind city hall to move heavy equipment and loads up the hill where high towers will be built.
“We don’t have to ask permission,” BPA Senior Project Manager Mark Korsness told the council.
BPA was hanging its hat on a reserve clause in the document developed when the access road was given over to the city.
“I know how the federal government works, I worked for them for 35 years,” Snow responded.
Councilmember Karl Hjorten explained why details need to be addressed and said, “We’re just simple people.”
BPA’s real estate official, Gary Wilson, read from the document he claimed reserved the right for access.
“It doesn’t say that,” Mayor Snow stated.
Officials were asked why the contractor couldn’t use the roads that approach the work area from above. They were told the road in question was unstable and the corners were too tight for the loads trucks would carry.
BPA indicated that it would reimburse the town for use of its parking lot and roadway alongside town hall to the extent of 1 percent of the space’s true value. The federal agency also stated that it would pay the town $2 per cubic yard of waste material it dumps on city property.
Snow was adding up the toll and stated, “$20,000 is a pretty small allowance for someone coming in and tearing up our property.”
While the discussion appeared amicable, it was apparent that the two entities were aways apart.
Korsness kept assuring the council that BPA would leave the area in just as good a shape as it was when the project started.
“If the guy says he’ll do it, he’ll do it,” Councilmember Bob Poch said, trying to convince fellow members.
Korsness introduced J. Mace Peveler, vice president of Wilson Construction Company of Canby, Ore., whose firm was awarded the contract to do the work on the estimated $10 million project. Gerald Turner, also of the Canby firm, was introduced. The two, along with at least one sub-contractor, had been in the area looking over the site.
The project involves stringing transmission lines from the Third Powerhouse on Grand Coulee Dam to the switchyards on the hillside above the town. It will eliminate two towers below the Visitor Center, erect a 350-foot high tower above the highway and eliminate underground power lines now being used to transmit power.
When Korsness said contractors were going to start work Feb. 7, it got a negative response from the town.
“Agreements need to be made on the numerous aspects of the project that affect the town,” Snow stated.
BPA’s use of the access road means that the town will lose much of its parking, raises questions about handicap access to city hall, and brought a response from Police Chief Pat Collins. Collins explained to the BPA and the contractor that their use of the access area will eliminate parking spaces for patrol cars and could interfere with rapid response if police needed a quick exit from the area while responding to a call.
The BPA assured the town that it would be notified well in advance when trucks come through the area.
The heavy equipment includes trucks carrying steel for the towers, cement trucks, cranes and contractor vehicles.
Korsness said it was their plan to dig through the hillside making the slope of the road more gradual.
The entire project will take all of 2012 and maybe go into next year to finish.
An official from the Columbia River Inn motel asked about liability insurance. Korsness said it wasn’t necessary, since BPA is self insured.
It was pointed out that if the BPA was going onto private property, then the property owner needed some assurance that there was liability protection.
Snow said, we need to have a special meeting to iron out the problems and get the agreement in order.
Meanwhile, BPA is looking at a Feb. 7 start date.