Oregon GOP leader wants power line off farmland

BOARDMAN, OREGON - The Republican leader of the Oregon Senate has introduced a bill he says is designed to get an Idaho utility company to move the proposed route of a high-voltage line off Eastern Oregon farmland.

Idaho Power has proposed a 500-kilovolt transmission line from Boardman to southwestern Idaho, but it has drawn objections.

Farmers say it would disrupt irrigation and inhibit aerial spraying to control pests and weeds, and they argue it should go on public land.


Ted Ferrioli, from John Day, who leads minority Republicans, has filed a bill that would prohibit power transmission lines with a capacity of 400,000 volts or greater on land zoned for exclusive farm use.

But he told the Baker City Herald newspaper that the best thing would be for the company to change the route, and the bill could go into the back of a desk drawer.

"If the strategists at Idaho Power believe the citizens of Baker and Malheur counties represent the path of least resistance, they are sadly mistaken," Ferrioli said.

"It's not only about the viewshed, the alleged health effects or even the threat of condemnation that galls," Ferrioli said. "It is the knowledge that Idaho Power analyzed alternatives and concluded that it would be easier to roll over ordinary citizens than to confront environmental groups who will likely litigate any route involving wildlife habitat."

Idaho Power has proposed a 298-mile route for the line from Hemingway, Idaho, to Boardman. The company said it needs additional transmission capabilities because its current system reaches capacity during periods of peak loads.

In a statement, Idaho Power said that "based on prior meetings or discussions with community members and leaders, we are undertaking efforts to further engage the public in the transmission siting process."

Idaho Power said it also "appreciate(s) and respects the concerns constituents have brought Sen. Ferrioli."

In Baker County, the group Move Idaho Power has urged the company to take a different route.

"If this is for the public good, put it on public land," said Nancy Peyron, one of its founders.

She said she has health concerns about the route, which would take the towers within a quarter of a mile of her ranch on Sunnyslope Road.


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