Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Area farmer fears power line alternative route could hurt operation

April 27 by Larry Meyer

JAMIESON —As Idaho Power continues to prepare a draft proposal for the routing of its 500-kilovolt transmission line between northeast Oregon and southwest Idaho, it is also proposing alternative routes, and one of those has a Malheur County farmer saying it will negatively impact his operation.

Kenneth Jensen, who farms just north of Jamieson, said depending on where the towers are installed, they could interfere with the operation of his center pivots and also restrict aerial spraying of his fields.

 Idaho Power’s proposed route goes west of Brogan and then heads east, north of Brogan. The Jamieson alternative route would head east sooner, cutting away from the proposed route several miles short of Brogan and would cross U.S. Highway 26 and irrigated farm ground about 1.5 miles north of Jamieson, Jensen said. About 1.5 miles of 2.5 miles of irrigated ground the line would cross would be on his farm, he added.

Farm operations would be limited in the proposed 250-foot right of way, Jensen said, as Occupational Safety and Health Agency rules say farm workers would not be allowed within 100 feet of the lines.

“It would make it impossible to do anything,” Jensen said of the line. He believes the line would also interfere with RTK GPS guidance tractors used in no-till farming, he said. “We, the farmers, would have to have our fields cut up by power lines,” Jensen said.

Also, one of the proposed towers for the Willow Creek Alternative would be at the end of his airstrip used by crop dusters and others, making it unusable, Jensen said.

Jensen said the Willow Creek alternative was offered because of concerns about a sage grouse lek the proposed route passes through near Huntington. A group of landowners have proposed their own alternative, which would cut off from the proposed route north of Brogan and skirt south around some leks, staying mostly on public land and joining the Jamieson alternative away from the irrigated farm ground.

In a letter to Jensen, which he shared, Keith Georgeson, Boardman to Hemingway Project leader, said “the proposed alternative route adds 8.1 miles to the 30-mile proposed route and 13.7 miles to the Willow Creek alternative route.” Noting that the landowners’ proposal would decrease the amount of irrigated crop land from 2 miles to 0.1 miles and reduce the amount of private land the line would cross in comparison to the proposed route and the Willow Creek alternative, Georgeson, said, “Idaho Power is not able to justify the proposed alternative because of the increased line length. The route increased the distance from the proposed route by almost 30 to 56 percent over the alternative route.”

Georgeson said Idaho Power continues to pursue the original route around Brogan as its proposed route, but, if permitting is denied, the company needs to have an alternative.