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Some residents concerned about Energize Eastside project

With the Eastside slated for significant growth in the near future, preparations are being made to accommodate the influx of people to the area.

Part of these preparations is Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) Energize Eastside project. According to its website, the project will bring new, higher-capacity electric transmission lines to the Eastside, which will “provide more dependable power for all Eastside communities for many years to come.”

Energize Eastside is still in the planning stages and PSE is seeking public input on the project.

One group with some things to say about the project is the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy (CENSE).

The organization was formed a few months ago and is made up of residents from various Eastside neighborhoods throughout Redmond, Newcastle, Bellevue, Kirkland and Renton.

Co-founder Don Marsh said the idea for CENSE came when he and some of his neighbors began learning about Energize Eastside and thought the project would degrade their neighborhood with proposed power line poles that would be about three times taller than the existing poles.

“It gives a different feeling to a neighborhood to have giant utility poles and trees cleared out,” he said.

Marsh soon discovered that residents from other neighborhoods had similar concerns about the project and he thought they would be more successful in voicing their concerns if they all came together.

In addition to neighborhood character, other concerns about the project include the fact that the transmission lines could potentially share the right of way with the Olympic Pipeline. Marsh said the idea of having high-voltage electricity lines in close proximity of oil has raised some safety concerns. Others are concerned about electromagnetic field radiation from being close to the transmission lines, he added.

The proposed 18-mile transmission line route will run from Redmond to Renton with about nine miles running through Bellevue. Because such a large portion of the lines will run through Bellevue, Marsh — a Bellevue resident himself — said CENSE has a strong Bellevue contingent compared to other cities, though there is participation from all cities.

Marsh said CENSE works to educate the public about the Energize Eastside project as there is a lot of information out there and not everyone may be getting it all. In addition, he said there may be alternatives to what PSE has proposed. CENSE is also working to convince the five Eastside cities affected by the project to hire an independent expert to study the situation and determine the size of the need.

Currently, one of the ways PSE is receiving input from the public is through a Community Advisory Group (CAG) — which is made up of 28 individuals representing the communities affected by the project.

Redmond resident David Chicks is a member of the CAG and said so far, there has not been too much discussion yet as they are still gathering information about the project. The transmission line route is broken into various segments and Chicks said there are 18 different combinations of routes.

The route will begin in Redmond at the PSE Sammamish Substation at 9221 Willows Rd. N.E. and depending on the routes selected, quickly hits either the Kirkland or Bellevue city border.

“Redmond is not nearly as affected as Bellevue,” Chicks said.

He said he has spoken with some members of CENSE and said, “it’s always good to have a robust conversation.”

“It’s always good when people get active in the community and active in the process,” he said.

According to the CENSE website, this is why the coalition was formed: To “fill an obvious void that existed for public feedback.”

For more information about CENSE, visit cense.org.

PSE will hold an Energize Eastside question-and-answer session from 6-9 p.m. on Monday at the Redmond Marriott Town Center at 7401 164th Ave. N.E. For more information about the project, visit energizeeastside.com.

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