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PSE’s Energize Eastside project planning begins with open house at Old Redmond Schoolhouse

This graphic displays power route options and connections to potential substation sites. - Courtesy graphic
This graphic displays power route options and connections to potential substation sites.
— image credit: Courtesy graphic

It takes more than just putting up a few buildings to accommodate growth in any given area.

A large part of the task includes making sure the local infrastructure can support the increased population.

And this is what Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is doing with its upcoming Energize Eastside project.

Still in its very early stages, Energize Eastside will bring new higher-capacity electric transmission lines to the Eastside according to the project website. The effort will upgrade PSE’s existing transmission system and the new lines — which will run from Redmond to Renton — will provide more dependable power to the area, the website states.

Andy Wappler, vice president of corporate affairs for PSE, said the current transmission lines are nearing capacity and will be above capacity around 2017-18 if no action is taken. And if this happens, the area may experience more power outages, he said.

In addition, Energize Eastside will improve PSE’s reliability if something happens, such as a transformer fire like the one that occurred in June 2011 at PSE’s Sammamish substation in Redmond. The new transmission lines will make it easier for the utility to reroute where it is pulling its power from.

A large part of Energize Eastside is public input.

PSE held the first of several planned open house events throughout the communities Wednesday evening at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center. Employees were on hand to answer people’s questions about the project, and display boards covered topics ranging from the purpose of the project and possible route options (there are 16 segments, with 19 possible combinations), to if and how electro-magnetic fields coming from transmission lines could affect a person’s health.

Bellevue resident Ann Marten was concerned about the latter, but she also wanted to know why the transmission lines couldn’t be installed underground so the area’s views would not be obstructed and there would be less danger from ice and/or fallen trees.

Wappler said underground transmission lines are a lot more expensive, and according to state law, the difference in cost from aboveground lines would fall on the local community. In addition, he said, if there is a power outage, it would take up to a few days to fix the problem because crews would need to go underground. Whereas, it would take only a few hours to fix a problem with aboveground lines.

Also at the meeting were members of Energize Eastside’s Citizen Advisory Group (CAG), which is made up of 26 individuals representing the communities affected by the project.

Pete Sullivan, a senior planner for the City of Redmond, is one of three people representing Redmond on the CAG.

When asked about what Energize Eastside will mean for the city, he said this will help them keep up with the growth planned as they work to realize the vision of two urban centers — in downtown and Overlake — in Redmond.

Because Energize Eastside is still in its early stages, Sullivan said the CAG is still in the process of finding out the project’s construction impacts and other details.

Robert Shay, president of the Wilburton Community Association in Bellevue, is also on the CAG. He said he got involved in the project because it is important for citizens to step up and be involved if they want their thoughts and opinions to be heard.

Shay said getting involved is also more than just saying, “Not in my back yard.”

“Citizen input is also learning what (the project) is and giving thoughtful input, educational input,” he said.

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