Although officials with the Bonneville Power Administration are no doubt dealing straightforwardly with the town of Coulee Dam, local officials are right to insist on taking a closer look at BPA’s plans to occupy town property for a year.
Federal officials have a goal, a set agenda, set methods of operating and they’re behind schedule. Human nature may not allow them to always look out for the best of interests of the town.
That’s up to the mayor and town council, who recognized last week that BPA is planning a big intrusion for very little cost. As Mayor Quincy Snow said, $20,000 isn’t much compensation for what’s proposed.
The project to replace the underground high- voltage powerlines from Grand Coulee Dam’s Third Powerhouse to the switch yards above town with lines that span the river will take a year. That’s a year of big, heavy trucks running up a residential street and behind the town hall, where the only access to citizens with disabilities will likely be blocked, as will patrol car access to the police station.
BPA wants literally to rearrange a hillside behind town hall, and it’s hard to see how these disruptions would not take place, given their plans.
Ask anyone in a roads department when is the worst time of year to load heavy equipment onto an ill-prepared street. They would likely answer February and March, when spring melt makes the ground soft and county road departments regularly declare certain roads off limits to heavy trucks.
BPA obviously wasn’t prepared for dealing with the town, having acknowledged as much at a town council meeting. Officials didn’t realize they would be crossing town property.
But they will, and town officials need to do their best to protect the town’s assets.
Construction is slated to start next week, but BPA officials should work out details and costs with the town first.
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