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caption: Conceptual photo of high-voltage power lines running through Bellevue, as proposed by Puget Sound Energy.
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Conceptual photo of high-voltage power lines running through Bellevue, as proposed by Puget Sound Energy.
Credit: Power Engineers image, for Puget Sound Energy

High-voltage power lines under appeal in Bellevue

Community activists are appealing plans for a high-voltage power line in Bellevue.

Puget Sound Energy wants to build a new transmission line between Redmond and Renton that's double the capacity of existing ones. The project is called Energize Eastside.

PSE already has approval from Bellevue's land-use official, the hearing examiner, but the community group CENSE has filed an appeal. That requires the topic to go before the Bellevue City Council for a vote, and the council has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, October 16.

Don Marsh is president of CENSE, the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy. He says PSE hasn't adequately proved that the transmission line is actually necessary.

"We would like to see what's cost effective, what's safe, what's good for the environment, what doesn't require thousands of valuable urban trees to be cut down," Marsh says. "What we're looking for is just a fair analysis."

He says there's not enough evidence the Eastside needs more energy, since LED bulbs and other energy efficiency measures are becoming more popular.

However, Puget Sound Energy argues that demand for energy is growing along with the population, and it needs to build new transmission lines to keep up.

The project needs approval from each city along the route, from Redmond to Renton. Bellevue is the first to vote on it.

Marsh argues the high-volt powerline would be dangerous, with it built atop an oil pipeline.

He says, "we think that this project raises the possibility that we could have an accident like what happened in Bellingham in 1999 that killed three kids, and given the population density of the Eastside, an accident like that in our area would be catastrophic."

Puget Sound Energy, in a statement, says:

"The extensive record affirms the project is needed and that by using the existing transmission line corridor, we limit the impacts to communities and the environment. Energize Eastside is the right solution in the right place for improved capacity and reliability of the Eastside’s electric transmission grid."

Bellevue's City Council could vote as soon as Wednesday. Newcastle and Renton also need to approve the plan before construction can start on Energize Eastside's south end.