Health and safety should count in substation case

I recently attended the public hearing on the selected location of a new substation by Pacific Power in Sams Valley. I am not a resident of that area so this is not a personal issue for me. However, I am concerned about the implied effects of the project overall and I found the presentations and process of the hearing very interesting.

Pacific Power was represented by a three-person team: an attorney and a technical engineer from Portland, and an assistant who claimed a Gold Hill address. They were well prepared to present the history of the project and the process of site selection.

They claimed to have started with 20 site possibilities but they presented details on only nine. They used six criteria to evaluate each site: technical and engineering feasibility, reasonably direct route to connect, lack of available urban and non-resource lands, available rights of way, public health and safety, and other requirements of state and federal agencies.

The preferred site selected is off Highway 234 that passes through farmland in Sams Valley and directly in front of the historic Table Rocks. Pacific Power claimed that it meets all of the criteria while the other sites studied, situated in more industrial areas, did not.

They stated that all of the criteria did not have to be weighed equally to each site, applying only those relevant to each site. The final selection was “based on substantial evidence.” They also stated that public health and safety was a “neutral” factor that didn't vary from site to site.

That last statement caught my attention. After listening to the concerns and comments of the residents of the valley, it was obvious that public health and safety is not a neutral factor.

Physical safety concerns such as fire are obvious and more neutral because they are issues common to every site. Of course, Pacific Power wants to avoid fire. However, other physical and mental health and safety concerns were described by the opposition that are less obvious and are not “neutral”: noise and light pollution; loss of natural farmland; visual obstruction of the historic Table Rocks; the experience of many hikers, bikers, tourists and schoolchildren who visit the Table Rocks; and the potential loss of local property and business values.

A lot of emotion was expressed as these concerns were described. Power line configuration, construction costs, timing convenience and ease of permits vs. the physical and mental impact on local residents every day, which affect longtime livelihood efforts; visual and auditory impositions; stress over loss of property value; respect for the historical, geological landmarks; the overall experience of the hundreds of users of Highway 234, a Scenic Byway; and explorers of the Table Rocks every year — these are living people! Shouldn't public health and safety be the first and highest priority of any project, anywhere?

— Lyn Dyck lives near Rogue River.

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