Evaluating the Environmental Implications of the Puget Sound Energy Project

Evaluating the Environmental Implications of the Puget Sound Energy Project

Introduction

With technological advancement, numerous projects have been set up to make the lives of people living in different cities better. It should be noted that such innovations have the potential to transform the world. However, it is important to assess the impact of these projects on the environment. Doing this provides individuals with an opportunity to weigh up the benefits of the project as well as the negative impact it might have on the environment, given that human beings should play a crucial role in preserving it. It is also important to consider the human safety aspect in the planned project, as it is vital to ensure that the project does not harm people. This evaluation requires involvement of the public, especially the individuals who will be affected directly once the project becomes operational (Corrales-Toy, 2015). The current paper examines the potential environmental impact that could result from the Puget Sound Energy (PSE) project to build a substation and an eighteen-mile power high capacity transmission line.

Overview

In recent past, the city of Bellevue witnessed immense growth, which led to straining of the electrical transmission systems. According to several studies, the demand for reliable electric power is likely to exceed the available capacity, which may happen as early as in the winter of 2017 (Corrales-Toy, 2015). However, although this is not an indication that the lights will go out in Bellevue City, it calls for substantial power system upgrades and aggressive conservation efforts. If this is not addressed, then it is likely that the Eastside’s power system will lose redundancy, resulting in a possibility of power outages for approximately 60,000 customers.

As part of preparation to ensure adequate power supply in future, East Side Power station developed a plan to ensure that the electricity supply will be enough for East Side residents. For this reason, it considered the construction of high-capacity transmission lines and building of a substation. This new station is expected to serve most of the businesses and homes in the Eastside. Importantly, the substation is going to provide an additional capacity, particularly ensuring that the electric system in Bellevue City can accommodate the growing number of consumers. In the same vein, the transmission line will be vital in providing of additional capacity to the communities in the Eastside. Such efforts are crucial to upgrading of the existing transmission system, in a bid to provide reliable power to the residents of the Eastside beyond 2017.

Public route discussion process

As documented by Macz (2015), Community Advisory Group meeting was convened by PSE to get the public views as regards the PSE power project. The advisory group was made up of twenty-four representatives who had varied interests in the Eastside region. This team was issued the mandate to identify and assess the community values as a way of evaluating the appropriateness of the chosen routes. Therefore, this discussion focused on recommending the routes that should be considered by PSE for the new project. It was established that the advisory group would spend more than a year to learn about the Eastside electrical system, and in the process, the members continued participation in meetings and workshops, analyzing the eighteen possible route options that had already been identified by PSE (Corrales-Toy, 2015). After a series of meetings and workshops, the advisory group managed to complete their work in December 2014. The advisory group settled on Oak and Willow as the appropriate routes for the high voltage transmission lines. The ongoing community outreach project supplemented substantial support to the community advisory group, and this was inclusive of the six public open houses, two question and answer sessions, several briefings, six community workshops, and numerous emails received regarding the project (Corrales-Toy, 2015).

My opinion on the implementation of the transmission lines

Considering the controversy that marred the PSE project, I attended an event at Bellevue City Social Hall. The meeting took place on May 18, 2015, starting from 9am to 5pm. Approximately 600 Eastside residents attended the meeting. The members of the PSE executive board were present, and they started by giving us a warm welcome. I got an opportunity to express my views on the issues, and I hoped that it would be considered by PSE. In my view, even though this project intends to address power deficiency in the future, it has far-reaching implications on the environment. Some of the residents in Bellevue City already expressed their concerns for PSE efforts to place power towers in the city. During the hearing, it was noted that some residents had embraced the idea, while others believed that the move could cause more harm. In fact, some of the residents believe that PSE should resort to alternative energy to increase the capacity rather than build a substation. Some of the residents prefer PSE to use an underground power supply option in order to curb the environmental and safety issues that could be caused by the use of towers to support the transmission lines (Macz, 2015).

My contribution to the debate concerned the process of installing the high voltage power lines on towers. In order to ensure safety of the Bellevue people, some of the trees have to be cleared to pave way for the installation of the power lines. I have noted that there is a danger if the trees are just left near high voltage power lines, considering possible damages that might be caused if a tree fell on the power line. Clearance of the trees on power routes will not only change the outlook of Bellevue City, but it is also signals destruction of the environment. The massive towers proposed would destroy the serene feeling that has been synonymous with Bellevue City. In fact, the presence of massive towers is an eye sore to the most of the residents of the city.

According to Community Forum on Energize Eastside (2014), installation of the massive towers jeopardizes the safety of the residents of the community. I therefore believe that there is a possibility of homes collapsing because of a landslide, as PSE had chosen sensitive slopes sides in one of the areas where the proposed lines need to pass through. For instance, one of them is within the rail corridor that is parallel to Lake Washington just slightly above the New Airport Shores. The land in this region is in the middle of a sensitive slope, and there are homes and condominiums both on top and below the slope. In fact, in some of the areas the slope is steeper than 70 degrees. PSE removed hundreds of trees from the hillside in preparation for the proposed installation of the power lines. In fact, 50-feet trees were removed from both sides of the lines. It is worth noting that the same situation contributed to the Osco landslide disaster in recent past. I believe it causes a concern because it might lead to a devastating effect that the installation of transmission lines could bring to Bellevue City. I have come to understand that citizens are worried, and some have taken the initiative to contact the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington in order to understand the risks involved by implementing this project. Furthermore, considering the neighborhood closeness to the Seattle Fault line, additional concerns about the possibility of the city being hit by the earthquake arouse. Residents in the neighborhood have expressed their willingness to work with Bellevue and PSE in a bid to understand the risks as well as ensure that the safety concerns are fully addressed.

Furthermore, some of the residential homes in Bellevue City already have six high-tension lines, and a part of them have two pipelines for jet fuel in the backyard. Without even notifying the residents, PSE installed the seventh line on power transmission routes. What is more, high-tension lines are installed directly into the water tower, which means that future generations could suffer from these actions. This calls for the use of alternative power, such as solar-powered roads, which have the capacity to store energy (Community Forum on Energize Eastside, 2014), so the power lines above the surface would be no longer needed. In addition, residents would benefit from clean energy that would serve several generations in Bellevue City. It is essential for the City of Bellevue to consider ways in which the citizens and their investments could be protected in order to ensure that the future generation would also benefit from them (Corrales-Toy, 2015).

Conclusion

To conclude, this paper has examined the environmental impact of the PSE project to build a substation and an eighteen-mile high–capacity electrical transmission line. It is noted that the project aims to prevent power shortages in the future, considering the increase in demand as well as the growing number of customers. However, even though the project could be beneficial to the people in the Eastside region, there are several environmental concerns that PSE has to address, and perhaps seek an alternative solution. For instance, installation of the transmission lines would require a massive clearing of the vegetation in the city. Based on PSE’s previous power lines installation experience, it is obvious that some of the power towers will be installed in the resident’s backyards, which has the potential to destroy the water towers. Moreover, some people have expressed safety concerns, stating that they might be put in danger of a massive destruction in case of an accident. For this reason, it would be better if PSE considered using underground electric cables in the project, or the city resorted to alternative clean energy sources, for instance, solar-powered roads.

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