Tuesday, April 29, 2008

There’s gotta be a better way

Imagine looking out your back door toward the forests and mountains of the Sisters country — and seeing a steel structure the size of a football field and 30 feet tall.

That’s the nightmare facing some Tollgate residents as Central Electric Cooperative gets set to upgrade its Tollgate substation to handle 115 kv power. They’re looking at a significant loss of property values as well as a diminished quality of life. The decline in property values will affect everyone in Tollgate, because their homes will be comparables in any appraisal.

The price of progress? Well...

Nobody really disputes the need for a power upgrade. The more wired our society becomes, the more juice we use and there’s really no arguing that. Enhanced reliability is a benefit.

But it isn’t pretty to see neighbors get royally screwed.

The shame of it is that this facility could be pushed 300 yards to the west, into the forest, and nobody’d even know it was there. A wildfire buffer could be easily created while still retaining a screen that would preserve the neighbors’ quality of life.
The Forest Service won’t allow it, because the rules say the agency can’t sell or trade public lands for such facilities unless there’s no other option. CEC owns land for the substation; an option exists and must be used.

The rules are not irrational. They exist to protect public lands and that’s certainly what most of us want. Precedent can be a real bear — bend the rules for some residents in Tollgate and sure as shootin’ somebody will want the same treatment in Idaho or New Mexico.

But “them’s the rules; tough luck” is hard to swallow when a solution seems so easy at hand. Some flexibility seems in order here.

It probably won’t happen — almost certainly won’t happen. The substation will win county approval, it will be built over the next year and the neighbors will try to screen their view as much as they can with their own landscaping. Their homes will never feel quite the same.

Maybe they’ll get used to it, but I doubt it.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

1 comment:

  1. I doubt it too and quite frankly it really saddens me that this issue has come to this point. I do not live in Tollgate but know that if it is happening there, it could happen anywhere. To add insult to injury, CEC has historically had a "my way or the highway" mentality. I hope with the new board chairman and new CEO they decide as an organization to work with members rather than against them. Working out a reasonable win win solution in this particular case would go a long way toward proving that CEC is becoming more customer focused.